Computer and communications equipment manufactures have to deal with tracking and counting extremely small parts. Counting parts that are so small and light that they can barely be seen is a daunting and time consuming process. The parts are contained on a strip that is wound on a reel and used to feed production machines. It is the responsibility of the Kitting department personnel to provide the parts needed for the production runs, and to then record the part usage when the production run is complete. The manual method of counting pieces by measuring the length of tape contained on the reel was an extremely arduous task. It took an average of 2 minutes to count each reel. When 800 reels per day are counted, this turns out to be a very costly procedure. Also, the manual method of handwriting the piece count on each reel was prone to errors.
A Weigh-Tronix PC-820 digital counting scale and an Intermec 1551 laser wedge are connected to a PC in the Kitting department. The scale has the ability to weigh parts as light as 0.00001 lbs. To get an idea of just how light 0.00001 lbs. is, if you were to take an ordinary dime and cut it into 661 equal pieces, you would be able to weigh each piece with this scale. An average piece weight function is performed on each part used. This needs to only be done once for each part. As reels are received from the warehouse, the Kitting personnel use the laser wedge to scan the reel's barcode serial number. The reel is then weighed to record its starting weigh count. All information is stored in an Oracle database. Each day about 800 reels of parts need to be gathered together or "kitted", by production order number, and then sent to production. All reels required for a production order are brought to the PC. Here each reel is scanned "out to production". When the production run is complete, the reels are brought back to the PC to be scanned "back from production". Each reel is weighed to determine the current weight. The difference between the starting weight and the current weight tells us how many parts have been used by production. This process takes less than 10 seconds per reel.
The time required to count the reels has been reduced by 25 hours per day. By using the counting scale and the laser wedge, accuracy has been improved to over 99%. Since the PC knows the number of pieces each reel contains, as well as the bill of material for the production order, production kits can be assembled and guaranteed to contain sufficient parts to fulfill the production run. An accurate inventory count of all parts in the kitting area and production area is maintained at all times. All of these improvements have lead to higher accuracy and greater efficiency at a lower cost, all of which are essential in today's electronics industry.