General Motors Corp. asked Crotty to institute an automated identification program to improve quality and efficiency.

Crotty Corp. (Quincy, MI), is a small company that manufactures visors for the Big Three automakers.

In 1996, General Motors Corp. (Detroit) asked Crotty to institute an automated identification program to improve quality and efficiency. Deciding to adopt a bar code system was easy. The system would provide valuable information about the company's manufacturing operations. Moreover, if Crotty placed the wrong visors in the wrong totes, the company risked losing GM's business. Crotty's new bar code system now tracks more than 163 permutations of visoróensuring the right things end up in the right totes at the right time.

"General Motors represents the majority of Crotty's business," says Bonnie Saddler, electronic data processing manager at Crotty. "The compliance marking system recommended by General Motors' quality improvement program would also increase our internal quality and efficiency, so we had many reasons to respond."

The program's objective was to provide 100 percent quality satisfaction, but where was the company to start? "We're a 53-year-old, family-owned company with $50 million in annual sales and 700 employees," says Saddler. "We did not have the resources to embark on such an ambitious program ourselves, but with the help of Business Computer Connections (Livonia, MI), we were on our way to a bar code labeling program that would meet the request and meet QS-9000 quality standards."

The labeling challenges started with air bags, explains Ann Lown, plant manager. U.S. regulations stipulate that the air bag warning label must be located upside down on the passenger visor. "It was imperative that the right label be placed in the right visor location," she says. "We had to develop an error-proof system that would ensure that the right label was going on the right visor. We already had 53 different part numbers in the system, and air bags tripled the number of part numbers. We resolved that a bar code printing system was the way to go."

Crotty began by implementing an enterprise resource planning package from JBA International (Detroit). Business Computer Connections provided the bar code printing, scanning and data collection systems. The system created by Business Computer Connections for JBA integrates easily into Crotty's AS/400 computer platform.

At the packaging stations, Crotty installed Model 5300 flatbed, tabletop scanners from Symbol Technologies (Holtsville, NY), so the visors' identification labels are scanned as they come out of manufacturing. The packaging clerk scans the customer name and part number, and the software package knows what parts should and should not be in the tote. Data on the master labelóproduct description, standard pack size, and number of products in the toteóare displayed on screen. If the operator scans the wrong bar code or there are too many parts in the tote, an error message is issued. The computer screen changes colors, and the PC beeps, indicating a correction is needed.

Once the software verifies that the correct parts are in the tote, it signals the CL 408 thermal transfer bar code printer, provided by Sato (Charlotte, NC) to print two 4- by 6-inch master labels for the two sides of the full tote. This printer was chosen for its performance and metal-enclosed case, which holds up better in an industrial environment. The tote is then sent on its way to General Motor plants in the United States and Canada.

"Training was easy," says Lown. "We had classes for everybody on the line so they knew how to scan, print and affix the labels to the totes. The new program was up and running in less than an hour."

The primary benefit is that Crotty is meeting the needs of its customer. To maintain its Tier One status, Crotty must provide 100 percent quality product, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

"We want our customer to be happy, and we want our employees to manufacture and label products correctly. We can't look at what the new system is costing us. We look at what it's not costing us if the wrong part number gets on the wrong part. It's the cost of poor quality that we're saving," says Lown.

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