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Tracking Down A Traceable Solution

Parallel ID System Improves Quality Control

The Briggs & Stratton Small Engine Facility, Poplar Bluff, MO, builds 14,000 units per day of the Quantum 4-cycle engine, known for its excellent one-pull starts on power equipment, such as self-propelled lawn mowers.

Manufacturing Engineering Technician, Billy DePew, had a goal to improve traceability of completed engines coming off the line. This meant being able to trace a non-conforming part back to the pallet it was produced on, the date of manufacture and work shift, in order to check other engines of that batch to determine the exact corrective procedure.

Working with Balluff engineers, he added a Balluff Parallel Passive Inductive ID system to help identify specific engines within their production batch. With this system, engines that did not meet Briggs & Stratton’s rigid QA standards could be isolated by a time stamp (date/time of manufacture) that was applied to each block, providing traceability and accountability for work performed by Briggs operators. The ID system helped Briggs & Stratton flag missteps before final engine assembly, and reduce scrap – increasing throughput and the overall quality of its engine components.

The tracking solution

Working with his Balluff team, DePew determined that a simple Balluff 60R “read only” passive inductive identification system could provide information to help improve quality tracking on the engine line. The Balluff BISC-60R-001-08P ID system, installed at Briggs & Stratton, consists of a simple parallel, self-contained read head -- an 8-bit parallel (8-byte addressable) device resembling a 30mm inductive proximity sensor.

This read head works with 1,023-byte Balluff BISC-12805/L data carriers, mounted on the machining pallets. These data carriers are essentially industrial EE-PROMS encapsulated in robust manufacturing-grade Duraplast material. They are capable of withstanding hostile manufacturing environments and rated to –20 to +70 deg. C.

The 88 data carriers used in this application have a mounting hole in the center of the tag for easy pallet attachment. Data exchange between the carrier and the read head is non-contact and wear-free. The data and necessary power for the data carrier are inductively coupled and require no battery for operation or data retention, eliminating added cost and the risk of losing data. Precise alignment of the read head and the data carrier is not necessary. The data carrier can be read “on-the-fly” while moving past the read head.

Problem Solved

With the integration of the Balluff Parallel ID system, the Briggs & Stratton Poplar Bluff engine block line achieved a cost-effective method of identifying quality problems. Briggs & Stratton also achieved a system of “back-tracking” components and accounting for work performed by its employees. The system was determined to be efficient, cost-effective and easy to integrate. The IP67-rated Balluff ID system was also robust enough to withstand rigors typically found in machine tool environments where components are showered with hot chips, coolant and lubricants.

According to DePew, “The Balluff ID system was simple to install and use. There are no problems with the system and the reads are accurate. We’ve also received good support from the Balluff organization. We’d like to expand this system into other plant areas, even in a new plant expansion assembly area that’s being implemented."

Balluff Inc.