x-TRACK Asset Tracking Case Study:
How Bailey’s of Bristol installed x-TRACK component tracking solution to improve their traceability process
Believed to be the first of its’ kind in the industry, caravan manufacturer Bailey of Bristol have invested in a real time component and procedure traceability system to provide on line quality control. Based on barcode technology, the system was installed by Cross-Check Systems of Bromsgrove and can pinpoint any major recalled item.
“Quality control is important to us, especially as we are making more caravans than we ever have before,” comments Peter Rose, traceability co-ordinator at Bailey. Working at the company for over 30 years, Rose started on the shop floor and has appreciated the recent improvements.
“We used to record the major components of each caravan on paper,” observes Rose. “We have a lot of archives. But we decided to computerise the information into a database so that if there is a recall on a safety critical item such as a fridge or heater, we can find the individual caravan in which it was fitted.”
Initially, this entailed paper record keeping in the production areas with the information manually input into computer later. “This was not ideal either, as it was quite time consuming and gave opportunities for errors. It did made sure we were happy with the principal at least, but we always intended to go for bar coding – there’s no way a manual system will ever be as accurate as a bar code.”
After talking to several experts in the field, Bailey chose Cross-Check Systems to provide the barcode technology, plus communications installation and the databases the information feeds. Rose; “We needed a lot of help initially as we had no former knowledge of bar coding. It needed to be as simple as possible for the people on the production line.”
Initially, the traceability system focused on the main components of a caravan which have safety implications; for example cookers, heaters, fridges which are sourced externally and might need to be linked to an individual caravan chassis – for product recalls or replacements. Next came critical points in the caravan assembly; torqueing wheels and any major job that could lead to water ingress if not carried out correctly.
There are currently sixty actions which can be traced in this way. For example a caravan side panel bar code will contain information on who fitted the window rubbers, who installed the toilet door, who fitted the awning rail and when all these operations were carried out.
“We’re doing really well on preventing water ingress in our products,” added Rose. “But if there was a problem we could trace it all the way back and focus on the particular process and staff training.”
Main work stations on the production line, which assembles new caravans from Bailey’s popular ranges in under three and a half hours each and turns out over 150 a week, are all supplied with wireless hand held bar code scanners. Each process, skilled member of staff, caravan chassis number and critical component have their own individual bar codes and can be identified automatically by the Cross-Check system.
Skilled staff scan their own bar code, the chassis bar code, operation and critical component bar codes before completing an operation. This information is instantly transmitted to a Cross-Check developed Microsoft database held centrally, which is updated in real time to make sure the information is always up to date. This information is instantly available in Microsoft Access.
Caravan sides are manufactured in a separate building across a road. However this is also covered by the Cross-Check traceability system. The company installed wireless access points in the main and satellite manufacturing areas to communicate with bar code scanners, and linked the caravan sides manufacturing site into the main system over a local area network (LAN). Thirty bar code scanners in total can roam between the five wireless access points.
An added benefit of the new traceability system is that it records the time of all scans, which means that manufacturing management can easily identify the amount of time required for any individual process and look for greater efficiency.
In the first four months of operation, the database has already recorded over 37,000 activities from over 100,000 individual bar code scans. According to Rose the staff, almost none of whom had used a scanner before, found the system easy to learn and operate.
The new system has already proved its’ worth in a product recall. “Just after the system went live, we had a recall on fridges,” Rose said. “Ten had been supplied and scanned using the new Cross-Check system and we tracked them down straight away. It was not so quick and easy with earlier paper based system.”
The bar coding traceability system has also speeded up production as there is less manual record keeping, and according to Rose the company is looking to expand the use of bar coding in the future.