Fixed-Mount Bar Code Scanners Work Tirelessly For Tire Manufacturer
Systems integrator Barcom, Inc. places fixed-mount bar code scanners inside custom-built manufacturing machines to track work in process (WIP) functions for a large tire manufacturer.
Many VARs and systems integrators are reluctant to make cold sales calls, since they believe such visits are rarely productive. Yet that is how Jim Ledbetter, president of Barcom, Inc. in Chattanooga, TN, gained a $250,000 sale. Barcom, Inc. is a 14-person integrator of AIDC systems with over $2 million in annual gross sales.
Tire Manufacturer Needed A Better Way To Track Its Tires
When Ledbetter called on a large truck tire manufacturer, he learned that its executives were aware that some of its practices were outmoded. The manufacturer needed a more efficient way to track work in process. Additionally, the firm needed to control this process through serial numbers. Both were being accomplished manually.
As the tires went through the manufacturing process, it was essential that certain custom-built machines be able to determine the exact orientation of each tire. Therefore, a machine-readable mark was placed in a specific place on each tire. Workers were simply eyeballing where to place this machine-readable mark. Unfortunately, if the mark were incorrectly placed, a machine could perform an operation at the wrong place on the tire.(Not surprisingly, this led to significant inaccuracies which, in turn, often required that tires be scrapped.)
The workers then manually wrote a serial number on the tire and logged it in, so it could be tracked through the manufacturing process. Ledbetter quickly realized that the tire manufacturer's problems could be resolved through the application of bar coding equipment. He therefore proposed that his company install a pilot installation to demonstrate how effective a bar coding solution could be.
Pilot Installation Proved Viability Of A Bar-Coding Solution
The first part of the pilot installation was quite simple. Zebra 170 bar code printers printed bar code labels containing serial numbers. A bright light with a focused beam was then installed on one of the machines. This light showed the workers precisely where to place the label on the tire.
The placement of the fixed-mount bar-code scanner presented more of a problem. Trial and error convinced the installers that the only appropriate site for the scanner was inside one of the custom-built machines. And the placement of the scanner meant that it had to read bar codes from a distance of 30 inches. Obviously, the scanner had to be positioned out of harm's way. Fortunately, Ledbetter had selected the Microscan MS7000 Scanner, which was compact enough to fit inside the machine.
Additionally, the MS7000 could easily read bar codes from 30 inches. Even so, the prototype installation was a challenge, largely because of the harsh environment in the facility. (Ledbetter remarked that two scanners were accidentally destroyed by rapidly moving tires during the pilot installation.) Once the kinks had been worked out of the prototype, with the assistance of Microscan technicians, bar-coding printers and readers were installed throughout the facility. The pilot installation took about six months.
Results Have Been Even Better Than Anticipated.
Prior to installing the pilot, Ledbetter had anticipated that, due to the harsh environment, a failure rate of 15% to 20% was to be expected. However, the failure rate has been much lower - less than 2%. Ledbetter attributes this to the extensive testing done during the pilot. As a result, there has been very little down time. The tire company's return on investment for the entire $250,000 installation was less then one year. The tire company's production rate is up and no additional labor is needed.