Every week – not to say every day – there are products withdrawn from the market because they are not compliant.
A few years ago Pepsi alone had to withdraw millions of cans, but if you search the internet you will find dozens of similar cases: it happens in all sectors, from food to consumer electronics.
Beyond the fact itself, the important thing to note is that the more structured companies are able to block specific production batches, limiting the damage; while if you don’t have a real tracking system you are forced to withdraw all the production (maybe for weeks) and it is really painful.
In many years of work in this sector, I have been able to verify that in the industry of technical compounds this issue is often and willingly ignored.
In fact, many companies in the plastic and rubber sector – even medium-sized ones – still have processes in which neither the production nor the raw material used are traced.
The causes of non-tracking of compounds
There are three main reasons why companies in the rubber and plastic sector do not track their productions:
- The management does not consider it important to have traceability because the laboratory takes care of controlling the production;
- The systems, but above all the automations, are dated and do not allow automatic management of traceability;
- No customer has ever complained or requested traceability, so it is useless to add other procedures, perhaps manuals.
The consequences, as you will see, can be really serious and it is a big mistake not to equip your plant with a raw material traceability system. I want to explain you why.
Track the raw material and win the challenge of competitiveness
The market for plastics and technical rubbers is increasingly competitive. When a company has to choose a supplier, it has dozens of alternatives available and the price is not always the only discriminating factor.
At the same price per kg of the product, the supplier company, delivery times, customer service and product quality controls are evaluated.
For this reason, many companies are keen to show laboratories with the most modern and sophisticated equipment. But even this is not enough.
Since you work with dozens of chemicals, laboratory tests only give a few results. For example, it is not easy to test the aging behavior under UV rays or the reaction to all external chemicals for all products and for all batches.
So it can happen that a compound, already produced several times for a specific use, over time presents defects, from simple color to structural problems that block its use.
The causes can be the most disparate; among these, certainly the quality of the raw material used and the production process itself.
Knowing in which other compounds that particular lot of raw material has been used and therefore informing customers in time, allows you on one hand to avoid problems (and lawsuits) and on the other to demonstrate to customers the efficiency of your quality control.
In the same way, having reports to verify the accuracy of the dosages and the processing cycle allows you to reduce more and more errors and non-conformities.
When a car manufacturer freezes a certain lot of cars because it has noticed a problem in a particular component, it creates disappointment among its customers who would always want perfect things, but it also demonstrates its attention to the products and protects itself from any accidents that they could cost millions.
Without considering the fact that foreign customers, especially in very technical sectors such as automotive, will push you more and more to equip yourself with these tools if you want to work with them.
The Excel sheet is not enough
Tracking means knowing in real-time which batch of raw material I am using, who is doing the work and how the plant and machines are behaving (working temperatures, quantities actually loaded, mixing times, etc.)
Tracing means searching backwards for the details of every single production phase from dosage to mixing, including the batches of the raw material used.
Some companies, to save a few thousand euros of software, still rely on the operator who writes the data on paper, and then stores hundreds of sheets or later inserts the data on Excel sheets or similar.
It might seem like a practical and economical choice, but the truth is that when you rely on uncontrolled manual activities you risk making even serious mistakes. The operator could make a mistake in writing the data, or he could wrongly store the documents or in reporting the data on the PC he could simply miss a line.
Without considering that each manual process costs time and therefore money and requires concentration and experience from the worker, especially in delicate matters that could lead to production losses or legal problems.
Investing in quality is worthwhile
The good news is that all our recent software (from 2015 onwards) have the traceability function already included or easily inserted; which is why you can update your system safely and with little effort (of time and money).
But the even better news is that we have developed a specific production logistics software for mixing rooms based on an App for Android and a simple PC program through which everyone can have a true management of production traceability.
When you have to fill a silos or a hopper with the raw material that has just arrived from the supplier, by reading the barcode or writing the component code by hand, the program checks which silos or hopper that component is contained in and first warns you if you are refilling the wrong silos or hopper.
This avoids you dangerous and costly pollution errors, unfortunately still very frequent as I can verify every day.
Furthermore, by reading the lot barcode or writing it by hand, the program assigns the loaded quantity to a specific batch. So, when you go to use that product and subtract the amount used, you are able to know what lot you actually used.
This is true both for large quantities in silos and for small quantities such as colors or chemicals.
We wanted to create a simple but customizable product that naturally fits all of our software but can also be installed on its own and costs a fraction of the price to clean a polluted silo or lose a customer because you haven’t been able to manage the traceability of the raw material.
We are not the first to make a similar product, if you search on the internet you will find several but ours is the only one designed specifically for the plastic and rubber industry.
With a simple configuration it manages the silos but also big-bag emptying stations or the box where you put the small components.
It interfaces with existing plants either by supplying the batch and stock data or by reading the weighs made and associating them with the batch and this can be done by simply writing\reading from a PLC or through the SQL tables of the database.
There is no other similar product, those on the market are also very complex (and expensive) software that manage the entire logistics but that do not interface with production, with the machines and PLCs of the mixing room.
Tracking the raw material has never been easier and cheaper
In short: you really have no more excuses for not having an efficient traceability system that avoids you having to clean a polluted silos or hopper.
It works like this:
- read the product and the lot
- select the silo or hopper or big-bag station
- if the product is the same content, you can refill, if it is not the app warns you
- finally, write on the terminal how many kg or bags you have loaded
It doesn’t get any harder than that and all data is stored on the SQL database, ready to be sent via PLC or SQL to any factory software.
What the production logistics module can and cannot do
Let’s start with the things the program can’t do.
It cannot do anything if you do not have a raw material component archive associated with a unique code for each material (any code is fine if it is unique).
It cannot do anything (or very little) if when a load of raw material arrives (on a tank, bags, big bags , etc.), before putting it in the warehouse or in the silos, you do not identify it with the component code and do not associate it a lot. The program allows you to manage these operations and print labels, sheets or whatever you need but someone always has to do it.
If you have done these simple operations and you have all the raw material identified with the lot (it is not strictly necessary but without this identification, you only have the date / time of loading) you can have control of the material sent to production. Such as?
The program allows you to associate a component code to each product source point, both manual (like a bin from which you take a component by hand) and automatic (like a silo or a big-bag emptying station).
When you must refill the bin, the hopper or the silo, the program verifies that are selecting the correct component and updates the lot and the quantity loaded on the pickup point.
The program can memorize up to 10 lots for each stock point, as for example in the case of a silos loaded through a bag emptier.
When the operator or plant picks up the product, the program records the quantity picked and associates the lot with it, so you always know what raw material you used for a specific production.
In addition, you also know how much material you have left in the silos or hopper and you can send this information to the management system to get an exact cost of production and manage reorders.
If the program that manages the plant is ours, all these functions (and many others) are achieved internally but if you already have a program from another supplier that manages the dosage, our software interfaces either with the PC or with the PLC system to read or write the necessary information.
Let’s take an example if the program that manages the dosages is not ours.
In case it is a recent program and you still have relations with the supplier, it is enough for the supplier to make available some simple data in the PLC memory (of any brand): the code of the production in progress, the point of withdrawal it is using and the actual amount he has discharged.
All data are read by our program and recorded on the database so you can do research even after years.
If you no longer have relationships with your automation supplier, this is a big problem.
Not so much for the logistics program as for the fact that if something doesn’t work properly or you need to make changes, you don’t know who to contact. In this case, before thinking about logistics, it is better to replace the automation plant program.
Do you want to see how simple it is to use it? Press play!
The logistics module for mixing rooms will be available from the beginning of September both as a module to be integrated into our main software and as an independent product.
Are you curious to know how much it costs?
As you can understand, it depends on your needs and how your system is composed. Therefore, I have created a small online survey to collect your needs and make you a crazy proposal (for few weeks only).
Find it here:
Plant traceability questionnaire
Do you want to talk to me directly and immediately? Call me at +39 059 537902