Material labels come in all shapes and sizes, and what you can do with your labels depends on what information they contain as well as the capabilities of your manufacturing systems.
Human-readable data for operators
The most straightforward reason to label parts is to have key information easily available for any person who picks up a part. Manufacturer and vendor labels vary wildly, and rarely contain all the details of a part that actually matter to the operators who handle material. A standardized label that always has the same information in the same place allows operators to quickly identify key details about any package in your facility.
Scannable data for machines and software
Adding barcodes to labels gives a simple way for your various machines and software systems to 'read' data in with scanners (duh!). This simple addition opens up a wide world of possibilities. Most commonly these labels are used for verification - like ensuring you're about the load the right part number into the right feeder. Many manufacturers use barcodes to verify they are picking the right part number from the stockroom as well (although these days this isn't necessary with a modern material handling system).
Verify, verify, verify
In addition to simply verifying that you have the right part number in hand, by adding more data in your barcode(s) you can verify that you've picked the oldest package, the right manufacturer, the correct LED bin number, owned/consigned material, and so one. Anything that is important to picking correctly can be verified with barcode scans.
It's even better if you're able to condense multiple 1D barcode scans in to a single 2D or QR code. 2D codes allow you to encode multiple data points, or even all the data points, into a single scan in order to eliminate wasteful repetitive scanning.
Even better than that is to uniquely identify each and every individual package that is received into your facility so that you can store all that information against a single Unique Identifier.
Unique Identifiers (UIDs) are becoming a 'must-have' in modern electronics manufacturing. UIDs uniquely identify an individual package, like an SMT reel, such that no other package in the facility will ever have the same UID. A UID is like a license plate or a primary key in a database table; with this one data point you can look up all the details about a particular package without having to manually check/scan/enter anything else.
UIDs unlock new workflows by allowing all your different systems to track and report on each individual package in your facility. This can bring tremendous benefits in every area of your operation, from receiving to the production floor, from inventory management to traceability, and more.
Identify, verify, automate
In short, labeling your parts can bring huge benefits to your operation. From simply providing human-readable information to your operators to easy verification, labeling your parts is one of the simplest things you can do to begin improving your inventory, material handling, and manufacturing processes. Stay tuned for our next blog post on the incredible benefits of using a UID on your parts labels.