By Taylor Trapani, Marketing Associate

When a car crashes into an object, there’s a timeframe of 60 milliseconds to save the driver’s life.

Six one-hundredths of a second are all it takes for the driver to make contact with the airbag. And if not the airbag, then the dashboard or windshield.

In an industry where milliseconds mean life or death, perfection is the standard. So when a tier one automotive supplier realized it accidentally installed 17 non-functional engineering sample airbags into vehicles, it was a big deal.

It’s common practice for automotive suppliers to conduct “fit and finish tests.” In these tests, they remove a sampling of parts from a production line and check for correct assembly, fit and ffinish In this case, they set aside 17 airbags after they completed the tests because they did not intend them for production use.

Inadvertently, someone mixed the test airbags into the production line and installed them in 17 vehicle instrument panels.

Once aware of the mistake, the supplier made it a dire priority to identify the airbags and which instrument panels and vehicles they were in.

This meant finding 17 specific airbags out of hundreds of thousands. Although a daunting task, the supplier wasn’t phased. Their manufacturing execution system (MES) had a traceability feature that stored all historical data of each production line including the airbag serial numbers, which line they were on, the instrument panels they were in, the vehicles the panels became a part of, and the dealerships that received the vehicles.

In 48 hours the supplier located each airbag – some of which already made it to dealership lots waiting for customer pickups. Their MES gave them real-time visibility into the process which enabled them to act quickly and execute a containment/recall operation.

Automotive manufacturing traceability saved them millions of dollars and priceless lives.

Read more about what this solution does for the supplier’s 26 facilities worldwide.