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Full traceability is a requirement imposed by nearly all customers of Meta System. It is simply part of the markets they serve. Before implementing a solution by Valor, Meta System achieved traceability only at the level of each lot (manufacturing batch) produced. Meta System deployed a closed loop traceability system using Valor MSS Material Traceability so that operator errors would not defeat or marginalize traceability.

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The trace of materials is automatic. The big difference between our process with Valor MSS and other traceability protocols is the automated operability on our machines. From incoming inspection, through kitting, feeder verification and splicing on each machine, the trace data is collected 100% for every panel.”

Luca Grifagni, SMT Process Eng Mgr

Problem Statement

Many times Meta System would divide larger lots into small lots to narrow the window of traceability, but this was not good enough because one printed circuit board (PCB) failure could still result in a recall of up to 5000 units. This created far too high a risk. Meta System required a solution which could minimize the recall risk down to a maximum of 3 PCB panels.


Meta System deployed a closed loop traceability system using Valor MSS so that operator errors would not defeat or marginalize traceability. This requires a good deal of process control and automated machine interface on the SMT lines. The trace data of each SMT component vendor ID and Lot Code was linked to each component placement reference designator on each individual PCB on every panel produced. To achieve the traceability goal of a maximum risk of 3 panels of variability, Valor’s implementation plan included a continuous unbroken chain of trace data from incoming materials registration, to kitting, machine set up and change-over, to splicing of individual reels as they become empty. Every bare board is marked with a serial number which is automatically captured by bar code readers mounted on the machine input conveyor, and the Valor MSS machine interface links all of the placement data to the trace data for each panel. For the SMT line the following six figures detail the elements of the traceability process:


    All incoming SMT components are registered to a unique reel or tray ID number. The Valor MSS database links the Vendor name, Part Number, Date Code/Lot Code, incoming Quantity to each reel/tray ID number.

    Registered material is managed in automated bin elevators for easy storage and retrieval. Quantity on each reel is maintained automatically by the system, including reels returned to stock through continuous count down based on placements, dropped parts and waste.

    Material required for each production program is listed and then pulled from bin elevators and sent to the kitting area. Here the reels are mounted on feeders and the reel ID is then linked to the feeder ID in the Valor MSS database.

    The machine interface guides the operator through setup /changes. The system is closed loop because the interface knows the program running on the machine, the required feeder position for each part number, and sensors on the carriage alert if a reel is loaded into the wrong position.

    The system alerts the operator when a reel is nearing the exhaustion point and forces the registration of the spliced reel within a preset quantity of placements past the exhaustion point. An incorrect reel (i.e. PN) stops the machine. The closed loop system calculates the splice point based on actual placements and dropped components.

    An easy to read interface to the machine keeps the operator informed on kitting, machine setup, low level warning, splicing, moisture sensitive device expiration, pickup errors, feeder errors, feeder maintenance and machine performance. Each machine has its own standardized display of the Valor MSS user interface.

Panel ID linked to PCB ID

A critical element in the unbroken chain of trace data is connecting the visual panel ID found on the panel barcode with the temporarily invisible PCB ID maintained inside the Valor MSS database. Before a panel is separated into single PCBs, the software has already assigned an internal serial number to each PCB in the array, and all the trace data is continuously linked and updated to each individual PCB by this internal serial number.

FIGURE A De‐paneling machine cuts the tabs between each PCB to separate the panel into single boards. The Valor MSS system knows the step & repeat pattern (including bad board marks) from the program run on the SMT machines during assembly.

Once separated, the individual PCB is assigned a new serial number (SN) printed out on a label applied to the PCB cover or chassis. At Meta System, the new label is applied to the center of the molded plastic cover of the unit. All trace data is now transferred to the new SN automatically by the system.

FIGURE B All the trace data collected by Valor MSS is now linked in an unbroken chain to the top assembly SN (i.e. the unit sold by Meta System). This process of collecting and linking the data gives Meta System the robust traceability they need.

Summary of benefits in addition to traceability

Even though traceability was the primary requirement at Meta System, the solution provided several other key benefits that created the Return on Investment.

The Valor MSS Material Traceability solution was easy to implement. Meta System management has a high degree of satisfaction with this solution implementation and the resulting ROI. The software modularity and scalability allows Meta System to progress and expand at the level that works best for them. Today they have two factories installed for traceability on their SMT lines, with plans to expand into box build. Next they will roll out to two more plants. So far, in less than two years, Meta System is already receiving a return on their investment.

The ROI at Meta System comes from five primary areas.

  1. Minimize accounting problems
    ERP systems frequently fall short on managing material once it leaves the stock room. The Software keeps an accurate accounting of material quantities on the shop floor and feeds real-time accurate data back into ERP, adding significant value to the ERP system.
  2. Eliminate kitting errors
    The Software creates a standardized process that integrates with actual machine programs used in production and controls the use of the correct feeder type, correct part number and assures the correct quantity for the lot size. Part numbers and feeder locations are acquired from the machine interface based on the actual program.
  3. Automate standard process for handling stock
    Only registered material is allowed into the bin elevators. The Software controls this process and manages the quantities in the transactions. Since the process is now standardized, there is no more variability in the data from different styles or techniques used by different people.
  4. Eliminate counting parts by hand
    Manual counting is error prone and costly. The Software handles this automatically as materials are consumed on the machines, including waste. When excess materials are returned to stock, the remaining quantity is known accurately. Lost time is also reduced since the machines do not stop due to an “unexpected” shortage.
  5. Eliminate setup errors on parts with identical shapes
    Machine vision systems work based on images captured of the component shape. Many parts can share identical shapes, while their electrical values are very different. The human eye can also be fooled, especially when parts themselves are too small to have discernable markings. The Valor software controls the Part Number linked to a reel ID from the beginning of the process and follows the Part Number continuously throughout assembly and any subsequent return-tostock and kitting cycles. When a reel is placed into a machine a closed loop systems insures the correct part number is loaded into the correct position according the program running on the machine at that moment.


This is the best project, the most successful software project implementation we have seen at Meta System.”

Mr. Pedroni, VP Global Production, Meta System

About Meta System

Meta System is an electronics OEM specializing in the development and production of advanced electronic security systems for automotive and energy markets . Meta System provides and controls the full product life cycle from design and development, through manufacturing and quality management. In the automotive world, Meta System is a leader in on board telematics and GPS vehicle tracking systems.

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