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Historically, the perception of traceability data collection from the shop-floor has been that it presents a significant burden to the operation, yet provides value only when the most unplanned, rare, and disastrous of events take place. Automotive has always been on the forefront of traceability because safety issues are paramount, and responsibilities for failures are quite severe.
A quiet revolution, however, is taking place within the automotive electronics industry, driven by a collection of technology advances, the need for further energy efficiency, and ever enhanced safety. A wide combination of different products that previously only existed in discrete sectors have come together in the car, combining critical control and management systems, including self-drive technologies such as radar, multi-media consumer devices, and built-in telecom capabilities including Internet access.
All of these technologies have to work together in one extended system, all operating in potentially hostile environments, and yet also be economically competitive because the car is, after all, a key consumer product. This is what makes automotive unique. A glitch in a single video camera does not simply result in a poor quality picture, it may now cause a car’s systems to react inappropriately in certain situations. Every electronics-based system can potentially affect every other.
A new approach to automotive traceability that brings the whole principle of traceability in electronics manufacturing up to date is now long overdue. This new “face” of traceability has a low cost of ownership because almost all data is captured electronically and automatically from every process and support operation within the factory. Assurance and compliance is enforced as operations are optimized and guided by the relevant elements of the highly automated manufacturing control software, with traceability built-in. Depending on the level of detail, accuracy, and timeliness of data capture from areas such as quality management, manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain, traceability can become the ultimate quality-management tool, as well as bring enhanced productivity and reduced operating costs.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of SMT Magazine.