Traceability in Manufacturing Industrial identification to improve your process chain

RFID handheld remote programmingManufacturers are facing ever increasing competitive pressure and legal requirements. The desire for visibility into their process, customer satisfaction, profits and compliance are pushing many manufacturers to look at the traceability as a long-term strategy. Manufacturers have discovered that implementing a traceability program is a proven method to meet their strategic goals.

With all the possible options, implementing a traceability program is a matter of finding a qualified partner. At Balluff, we have been developing traceability solutions for over 25 years. With access to qualified integrators, we know what it takes to have a successful implementation...that is, to ensure quality and maximize your return of investment.

Traceability = Documenting the Supply Chain

Traceability is the act of documenting every step in a process chain. It will record the history, location, or use of an item by means of automated identification. Manufacturers use this information to gain visibility to achieve Just-In-Time delivery, lean manufacturing, enhanced quality, and regulatory compliance.

Traceability Goal

  • Comply with regulatory and quality standards
  • Proactively manage product recalls with near-real-time corrective action
  • Improve customer safety, customer satisfaction, and profit margin
  • Manage product quality and reduce the cost of nonconformance

Tracking Technology Overview

Plant wide traceability in manufacturing

Starting a Traceability Program

This page provides a comprehensive overview of the four general areas where a traceability program will provide significant return on investments. Included in the overview are key ROI elements to help you plan your strategy. Identifying your area(s) will help shape the type of hardware and software required, as well as process changes, to accomplish your goals.

Plant Functions Requiring Traceability:

Asset Tracking

Tool roomPlant-based Asset Tracking. The goal of plant-based asset tracking is to reduce non-productive time and asset losses, while increasing overall productivity and utilization by accurately tracking assets. Bar code and RFID technologies track changes to an asset's location, condition, conformity status, and availability. Assets can also be matched to intended parts to verify correctness.

Key ROI Elements

  • Reduce asset's non-productive time
  • Reduce asset losses
  • Increase overall asset productivity
  • Increase asset utilization



Production Control (WIP) in Assembly Automation

Main assembly of fuel injectorsFull Transparency for Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) in Your Automated Assembly Process. Manufacturing plants utilizing automated assembly have unique requirements when it comes to tracking their work-in-process (WIP). Tracking can also include all the lineage information from all the components used in the final assembly. Most automated manufacturing lines also utilize flexible manufacturing where multiple product versions are made on one line. When we look at automated assembly in total, there are three primary areas of tracking: 

What is Being Tracked:

  • Build Information - what is being built (for flexible MFG)
  • Process Information - how well was it built (error proofing)
  • Lineage Information - where did all the parts come from

Electronic Kanban

assembly components in boxes with UHF RFID tags affixedE-Kanban Process. Electronic Kanban (E-Kanban) is a messaging system that uses a mix of technology to trigger the movement of components and materials within a manufacturing facility. E-Kanban differs from traditional Kanban in that it uses technology to replace traditional elements such as Kanban cards with barcodes or RFID tags.

With RFID technology, there is the possibility to fully automate the identification process. This will result in faster tracking with more reliability and less operator intervention.

A typical E-Kanban system will see inventory marked with barcodes or RFID tags that are scanned at various steps in the manufacturing process to signal usage levels that are sent back to an ERP system for replenishment. This method ensures a constant flow of material while keeping inventories to a minimum.

An additional benefit of E-Kanban is the integration of outside suppliers through an ERP system. By relaying this information, the entire supply chain can be optimized for Just-in-Time inventory flow.

Key ROI Elements

  • Reduce levels of in-process inventory
  • Maintain tight control of in-process inventory levels
  • Implement Just-in-Time inventory flow with outside vendors


UHF RFID tags track all movements between manufacturing facilitiesInter-plant Product Flow. Intra-logistics track incoming and outgoing shipments of parts and products between the final assembly plant and various sub suppliers. RFID tags and barcodes are affixed to containers or pallets, so parts can be tracked coming and going from individual facilities.

As parts are loaded onto the pallets or in containers, the exact quantity, version number, serial number, etc. are written to a permanent or disposable RFID tag for tracking. When the container arrives at the destination facility, readers automatically verify the contents. As parts are used and inventory levels drop, the ERP system will signal the need to replenish. When the pallet or container is empty, the RFID tag is erased for reuse or is destroyed. The container is then sent back to the supplier where the process starts all over again.

Key ROI Elements

  • Maintain tight flow control with multiple sub suppliers
  • Reduce time and potential errors when receiving components
  • Maintain high level of visibility and traceability from sub suppliers to finished products
  • Maintain regulatory compliance


Tracking Technology Overview id tracking technologies
Low Frequency (LF)
High Frequency (HF)
Ultra High Frequency (UHF)
Barcode Identification
BVS Vision Sensor and
ID Handhelds

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