Track-and-Trace Offers Big Opportunities for Machine Vision

Customization, quality, and automation are driving companies to adopt track-and-trace data-collection systems across all industries. Manufacturers and product designers are creating ever-increasing numbers of customized products, leading to increased expectations for flexibility in production lines. At the same time, to fully realize the benefits of automation, a plant needs centralized control and accountability to keep key management, engineering, and maintenance staff aware of status changes in real time. Furthermore, quality standards are rising around the world.

Put these three industry drivers together, and you can see why product tracking is “taking off” throughout industrial environments.

In assessing laser- versus image-based scanning, the long-term trend is toward image-based systems. This trend sets the stage well for machine vision to take its place among track-and-trace solutions.  Even so, some laser scanners are less expensive than image-based systems. For example, an image-based system for long-distance code-reading tasks may cost up to twice as much as a laser scanner. The price point may be justified for a reader that includes a lot of optics to handle complex reading tasks.

The move to adopt more product-tracking technology is supported by increasing automation, which, in turn, is driven by rising labor costs. Rising quality standards on the production line also drive track-and-trace deployment, which is leading to some hybrid applications. For example, some manufacturers have fully automated production lines, while others have a blend of automated lines and manual work cells.

Yesterday’s smart camera, at a fraction of the size, has become today’s flexible machine code reader, bringing more intelligent capability to what has traditionally been a “dumb” application. As more industries, through risk management or regulation, turn to track-and-trace to limit liability and improve quality, machine vision will continue to support and benefit from these moves.

>Read more by Winn Hardin, Vision Online, 5/26/16