Argenta — a specialist provider of test, measurement, control and automation solutions — has retrofitted a traceability solution to two production lines for UK-NSI, the European manufacturing hub of Nippon Seiki, a Japanese company specialising in the supply of high-technology driver information systems to the automotive sector. Argenta created the solution using its expertise in LabVIEW and C# to capture assembly and test data from across the manufacturing process. Argenta won a competitive tender to supply the solution.
“Quality is hugely important to our customers, who are premium car manufacturers,” says Tim Palmer, Engineer, UK-NSI. “Recall costs are astronomically high: To remove the head-up display that goes into premium cars, you have to remove the windscreen. Our customers are increasingly asking us to be able to trace parts all the way through the manufacturing process, and all the way back to the component suppliers.”
The new solution collects all the data relating to a part in a single database, replacing the disconnected and differently formatted CSV files that were used to store data previously. When the components arrive at a shop floor station for assembly, they are scanned by the operator using a barcode or RFID reader. The new Argenta solution consults a central database to check that the correct parts are being used, and only allows the operator to proceed if they are. This includes enforcing the correct route through the factory, restricting parts from proceeding without passing the required quality control tests at the previous station. The solution also ensures that components are not reused too many times, in line with rework limits. The solution connects to UK-NSI’s ERP system to update its database with the parts required for each job, based on the work order.
LabVIEW is used to capture data from the machines, with a web API used to communicate with the new central database. Test data from each station is stored together with information on the components that make up a part (including supplier, purchase order and lot number). Tests include vision tests, torque and angle tests for screwdrivers, Linear Variable Differential Transformer (LVDT) height measurements, and sound booth tests to ensure that mechanical parts do not create noise when moving.
“The best outcome is that the new system stops us from sending out parts that are incomplete, wrong, or somehow damaged in assembly,” says Mr Palmer. “Previously, we had daily reports on our manufacturing processes. We can now get this information on demand. The solution has impressed our customers who asked for traceability, and many of them are getting a lot more than they asked for. They’re really happy.”
“Argenta brought really helpful suggestions to enable us to select data from the machines we had used in the past,” says Mr Palmer. “They have a deep technical knowledge and went above and beyond what was asked of them.”