Eliminating Human ErrorWith Fixed-Mount Scanners
AIDEA provides a bar code solution for
Delphi Automotive Systems to assure its customers are receiving the correct products.
It's safe to say that a goal of any manufacturer is to avoid human error in shipping products. Fixed-mount bar code scanners take some of the item checking burden off of assembly line employees, by continuously scanning bar codes. AIDEA, an Indianapolis-based VAR, helped Delphi Automotive Systems (Kokomo, IN) verify that correct shipments were sent to the right end users. This increases efficiency and decreases human error. Delphi, an automotive electronics supplier, ships bar-coded products, such as air bag control modules, audio modules, and engine control modules. Each item needs to be tested before it is shipped to a customer.
Working With A Manual System
Items move down the assembly line in totes, which are reusable plastic containers. An AIAG (Automotive Industry Action Group) label must be affixed on each end of the tote. This standard form of identification can contain up to seven bar codes. The label has recently been upgraded to include PDF417 2-D bar codes, which is important, since GM recently adopted this symbology. AIDEA provided a solution to ensure the AIAG labels on each side of the tote match each other and the product inside the tote.
"Delphi Automotive Systems wanted a simple solution that would properly communicate with its existing system," explained Greg Hilbert, AIDEA sales engineer. "With the manual system, products could be mislabeled and sent to the wrong customer. Delphi chose us because we provided a simple solution."
Constructing A Simple Solution
Delphi's solution consisted of two MS850 raster scanners from Microscan (Renton, WA), a handheld scanner from PSC (Webster, NY), and a Stamp2 custom box – designed by AIDEA. "The Stamp2 is much smaller than a computer," Hilbert explained. "It allows us to write a program in basic language, enabling the Stamp2 to collect data and make simple decisions for specific tasks."
"Our competition for the project had large computer systems that were doing the same thing that our simple, little module did," he continued. "The other solutions were overkill and lost time waiting for the computer to boot up. With our system, the employee flips the switch on the Stamp2, and the system is ready to go. We talked to Delphi for the first time in July 1999, and the installation was complete by that September. It took us three weeks to build the first system. We sold eight systems to Delphi. Each one cost under $5,000, after a one-time programming fee of $1,500." Installation needed to be simple, since AIDEA wouldn't be doing the physical installation. Delphi is a union environment. AIDEA has provided training and post-sales support.
Catching Mistakes Before They Reach The Customer
Here's how the system works today: Each tote traveling on the conveyor belt breaks a light beam. This action trips a detector, which tells the fixed-mount scanners to start scanning. The scanners pull all the bar code information and send the collected data to the Stamp2. From there, the Stamp2 checks that all the retrieved data matches. If there's a match, the Stamp2 turns on a green light and sends a string of data to the host computer on the assembly line. The computer alerts the employee to perform the appropriate test on the equipment in the tote. This process assures that the right tests are performed on the right equipment.
The tester takes the units out of the box and tests them one at a time on a pass/fail basis. Once assured of the correct product, a scan with the handheld scanner lets the computer know that the product passed its test. The product is also time- and date-stamped during this scanning function. If the product fails the test, the whole assembly line stops and an alarm and red light let the employee know there is a problem. This warning function lets the employee take steps to correct the problem before the product is sent to the end user.
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at NancyS@corrypub.com.