traceability programs automotive industry

It’s hard to track a part if it blows up on you.

This is the hard and now infamous lesson that Takata Corporation taught the automotive industry when its faulty airbag inflators unleashed the largest product recall in the history of the U.S. of more than 50 million vehicles from major brands like Honda, Toyota, and Ferrari.

One of the main reasons that this became such a catastrophe was because of the lack of an effective, global traceability program for Takata’s parts across the world.

To prevent such a massive recall from happening again, many automotive manufacturers and suppliers that sell to the automotive industry have begun investigating traceability programs for their global supply chains.

But this isn’t just limited to companies; as Richa Gupta and David Krebs from VDC Research note, policymakers and industry groups are getting heavily involved as well in pushing and advocating for these initiatives.


What’s Crucial: 2D Barcodes & Traceability Programs

According to VDC Research’s 2016 research report about this topic:

“Almost 50% of our survey respondents reported scanning both 1D and 2D barcode symbologies to support track-and-trace initiatives. Manufacturers across industries of focus are investing in 2D barcode scanning imagers and technologies to improve data collection and communication performances, with 47% of automotive respondents currently evaluating the use of 2D barcodes….”

There’s a reason for this: technological advancements like barcode validation solutions, traceability software, and in particular, 2D barcodes are essential for hindering potential massive recalls.

Here’s how both 2D barcodes and traceability programs can help the automotive industry to avoid massive product recalls.


Why 2D Barcodes?

1) 2D barcodes hold more information than 1D barcodes.

This sounds deceptively simple at first, but it’s true: 2D barcodes can hold tens to hundreds of times more information than their 1D counterparts.

And as supply chains become more global, companies need barcodes that hold more and more information. That’s where 2D barcodes come in.

Because they’re designed to hold a massive amount of character types, they’re the perfect solution for the supply chain ecosystem of the future.

2) 2D barcodes are small and easily scannable.  

Another benefit of 2D barcodes is that they’re small and easily scannable. Small barcodes are advantageous for obvious reasons: they take up less room on a part or a product label.

They are also designed to make it easy for barcode scanners to read them regardless of their position.

3) You can recreate 2D barcodes if they get damaged.

Many of Takata’s defective airbags had 1D barcodes on them, which proved to be a major problem. If a 1D barcode is damaged, you can’t recreate it.

And this doesn’t just affect Takata; if any automotive part’s 1D barcode is marred or unreadable, it can be extremely difficult to tell where, how, or when a product was made. On the other hand, 2D barcodes can still be recreated or have their data recovered if they’re damaged. This is because many 2D barcodes can tolerate more errors in the data portion of the symbol than any 1D barcode could.

Also, when you create 2D codes, some 2D symbologies allow you to specify how much of the data will be used for error correction and how much of the data will be used for encoding data.  So, if you want a symbol to be readable despite a lot of damage, it’s possible to create 2D barcodes that are very tolerant to errors. This is not possible with 1D codes.

As a result, using 2D barcodes makes tracking defective products and parts all the easier, saving time, money, and most importantly: lives.

4) 2D barcodes can seamlessly integrate into supply chain ecosystems and traceability programs.

Globalization has made supply chain ecosystems even more complicated, with varying layers, elements, departments, stakeholders, companies, systems, and products involved.

2D barcodes fit effortlessly into automotive supply chains, especially given the major technological upgrades in the past few years with the Internet of Things (IoT) and more sophisticated barcode label printers, scanners, and other auto-ID solutions.

But they’re just not ideal for supply chains; they’re ideal for the traceability programs implemented across these supply chains to track any product from start to finish.


Why Traceability Programs?

1) Traceability programs can help you meet different compliance regulations and policies.

In 2000, the U.S. passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, which requires that vehicle and equipment manufacturers compile and report any potential safety defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Rules set forth by this and similar acts hold companies involved in the automotive industry accountable for product safety and compliance.

Traceability programs can help you catch a problem before it’s too late and avoid becoming the next Takata.

2) Traceability programs can help you avoid fines and penalties.

Given how vital safety is to the automotive industry, it can be quite stringent, with many rules, laws, and regulations. If you don’t meet these rules, laws, and regulations, you can be slammed with costly penalties and fines.

Traceability programs are one way to ensure that you meet regulatory requirements and avoid said fines and penalties. Since you’ll be able to catch a problem before it turns into an issue, you can halt the spread of a defective product to vehicles and parts.

3) You can protect your brand and maintain consumers’ trust with traceability programs.

Consumers are considerably fickle nowadays and not as loyal to brands as they were in the past. So, if you’re a manufacturer, you can just imagine how a product recall could affect your brand image and consumers’ trust in you – especially if something is unsafe.

With traceability programs, though, you can minimize the potential damage of a part recall. You will be able to detect problems both faster and easier before if you have a transparent program tracking the entire lifecycle of your products.


How Printronix Auto ID Can Help

Our thermal printing and barcode validation solutions are designed to meet the current and future needs of the automotive industry.

We’ve tailored our solutions to help companies to implement traceability programs and both track and validate barcodes on their parts.

ODV-2D Thermal Barcode Printer/Validator

Printronix Auto ID’s ODV-2D is the industry’s first affordable, fully integrated solution that can print and validate 1D and 2D barcodes. As many automotive groups begin investing in 2D barcodes, the ODV-2D can validate any barcodes you print and grade them to ISO standards.

With ODV-2D, you can eliminate downtime and save money. As you know, the cost of production is high, and any time a line or department is down, you could potentially lose thousands of dollars.

ODV-2D’s built-in data validator reads each barcode, overstrikes the entire label or a rejected barcode, and reprints a new label, thus preventing bad barcodes and helping you automate the entire supply chain system.

PrintNet Enterprise (PNE)

PrintNet Enterprise (PNE) is a remote printer management utility that gives you the ability to remotely monitor and control any of your Printronix Auto ID thermal and RFID printers from one single dashboard.

PNE is an important tool for traceability. When used with a printer that has a barcode validation (ODV) feature such as the ODV-2D, PNE is able to provide suppliers and automotive manufacturers with barcode readability reports. These reports show all of the barcodes that were printed on specific products and what their grades were. That way, it’s easier to track a part before and after it leaves your facility and provide proof of the label’s integrity when it left the manufacturing facility.

PNE is also great because you can use it to manage your thermal printers from any networked PC. This is a perfect complement to the global nature of a traceability program, which looks at parts in different countries and parts of the world.

© 2018 PRINTRONIX AUTO ID. All Rights Reserved.