JMP Engineering (Corporate)

Traceability Keeps Solar Panels on Track

The Challenge

JMP clients across many industries are faced with common challenges presented by increasingly complex global supply chains. Within the context of this new global supply chain paradigm, manufacturing companies need tools and strategies to enable efficient and effective supplier management, warranty management, regulatory compliance, brand protection and manufacturing process improvements.

One such client of JMP’s is a global, vertically integrated solar panel manufacturer. The client was challenged to find common variables when final assembled panels did not reach expected performance characteristics. A paper-based system was ineffective in managing the multiple variables that could contribute to poor product performance. There was a real business need to understand questions like: Which lot of cells where included in this panel? What other final products contain that same lot of cells? What machines processed this panel? What people where running those machines? What process data was collected throughout the manufacturing process? Which of these variables can we pinpoint as the root cause of my problem? How can we address that problem quickly and ensure that my production gets back on track? Furthermore, as warranty claims or customer complaints for product already deployed in the field surfaced, JMP’s client needed a system to track and trace common variables for those products in order to reduce warranty costs and pro-actively engage affected customers.

The Approach

The client and JMP jointly designed and implemented a traceability solution for manufacturing operations that enables the customer to achieve their supplier quality management and continuous improvement goals. The solution leverages commercial off-the-shelf manufacturing execution software, combined with components such as barcode applicators, vision systems, human-machine interfaces and PLC-based machine control and data collection.

The solution delivers a critical traceability matrix report and analysis tool that enables trouble-shooting, risk management and quality improvements. Components are labeled with bar codes and automatically tracked through various production steps and machinery along the manufacturing line. At final testing, quality data is collected into the production record from the automated testing station and each panel can be graded according to specifications. If performance problems surface during testing or later in the field, effective root cause analysis is enabled by analyzing the traceability matrix for that solar panel and others with similar histories or performance characteristics.

JMP’s Unique Value

The customer selected JMP as their partner for several reasons critical to the success of the project. These include a sound project management methodology, experience with commercial off-the-shelf software, control systems integration expertise, and a deep understanding of how to link business requirements to a technical solution.

The Client Payoff

JMP delivered on our trademark foundations of guaranteed performance, exceptional communication, and radical commitment to provide our customer the solution they envisioned. Our client now has the tools and strategies they need to enable efficient and effective supplier management, warranty management, regulatory compliance, brand protection and manufacturing process improvements. We jointly trained dozens of operators and supervisors to use the solution, and our client plans to expand both the scope and the scale of the solution. This project and future plans are a testament to the confidence the customer has in JMP’s ability to deliver business results through innovative technology solutions like this advanced traceability solution.

The expected benefit is a reduction in warranty costs, improvement in customer satisfaction, and an improvement in first pass quality.