WO2008096016A1 - Configurable system, method and associated software for managing the manufacturing and processing of high valued goods in high volume - Google Patents

Configurable system, method and associated software for managing the manufacturing and processing of high valued goods in high volume Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2008096016A1
WO2008096016A1 PCT/EP2008/051630 EP2008051630W WO2008096016A1 WO 2008096016 A1 WO2008096016 A1 WO 2008096016A1 EP 2008051630 W EP2008051630 W EP 2008051630W WO 2008096016 A1 WO2008096016 A1 WO 2008096016A1
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Prior art keywords
carrier
process
identification code
goods
associated
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PCT/EP2008/051630
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French (fr)
Inventor
Raf Goossens
Luc Vereycken
Peter Ulrix
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Nv Engineering Systems
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/06Resources, workflows, human or project management, e.g. organising, planning, scheduling or allocating time, human or machine resources; Enterprise planning; Organisational models

Abstract

Method of and system for tracking a carrier of goods. The system creates a carrier record in a memory, which is associated with the carrier. The carrier has a detectable carrier identification code. The system links a logical unit (UWIP) to the carrier record associated with the carrier, which logical unit comprises information with respect to the goods in the carrier. The system registers the carrier identification code when the carrier / goods are processed at sequential process stages, each process stage associated with a process identification code. The system receives process registration data from the process stages after registering the carrier identification code. The process registration data includes the registered carrier identification code and the process identification code associated with the process stages. The system updates the carrier/UWIP records associated with the received carrier identification according to the received process registration data.

Description

CONFIGURABLE SYSTEM, METHOD AND ASSOCIATED SOFTWARE

FOR MANAGING THE MANUFACTURING AND PROCESSING OF HIGH

VALUED GOODS IN HIGH VOLUME

The invention relates to a system for and method of tracking goods, in particular high valued goods. The invention particularly relates to a system having multiple stages for handling and processing the goods, wherein the goods are linked to carriers and tracked by tracking a carrier of the goods. The invention also relates to a method of tracking goods comprising detecting and registering goods handled in multiple stages. In an embodiment, the invention relates to an MES environment, including software therefore. In an embodiment, the invention further relates to a method of displaying information regarding tracked goods.

Background of the invention

High valued goods, available in large quantities are subject to increased risk since they not only can disappear during manufacturing or processing but moreover are subject to an increased risk (reselling, trading, counterfeiting, ... ), due to their widespread availability in the market. These goods can be items such as cash (coins and bills), tobacco products (cigars/cigarettes), alcohol (wines/spirits), precious metals (gold/silver/platinum), diamonds, and many others.

The manufacturing and processing of such high valued goods creates very specific needs, resulting in extended information systems requirements, supporting these functions. In the process of manufacturing or processing goods there is a need for minimizing the risk of loss of the valued goods. A further need in the process of handling goods is a 100% traceability down to the lowest level, covering parameters such as location for every single piece at any time, processing status at any time, machines/equipment used at every process step, operator identification at every process step by using electronic signatures or storing processing images and/or tracking the materials used at every process step

In the process of handling valued goods a detailed goods location management and monitoring of touch time, lead time etc. should be available in order to be able to track the history of a good. There is a still further need of enforcing procedures for processing and manufacturing. Also during processing many details regarding the handling of the goods and in particular relating to the functioning of materials, machines and operators can be collected and could be stored for reporting and further analysis for improving the handling process or identifying shortcomings of the system.

US Application No. 2006/0065717 describes a general system for interfacing a cash-in-transit system and a network for electronically managing payment media. It is a goal of the invention provide a suitable system for and method of tracking goods, in particular high valued goods.

Description of the invention

An advantage of the present invention in some embodiments is that it reduce at least one of the problems of the prior art. An advantage of some embodiments can be that it provides a method and system with increased possibilities for identifying shortcomings in the process. A further advantage of the invention for some embodiments is reducing the risk of losing goods.

The present invention relates to a configurable system and/or method. The present invention particularly relates to a computer based configurable system and/or method and associated software for managing and/or monitoring the manufacturing, handling and/or processing of goods such as high valued goods in high volume. The computer based system can include computing devices and data storage devices such as mass storage devices linked by a network, e.g. wired, cabled, wireless, optical fiber, and/or satellite data network. The computing device will typically have at least one memory and at least one processor. The memory can be either volatile or non- volatile memory or both.

The manufacturing, handling and/or processing of goods relates to real- world operations in the physical world. These physical operations can be planned and/or controlled by the computer based configurable system, method and associated software of the present invention.

According to an aspect of the invention a method of tracking a carrier of goods is provided. The method comprises providing goods, providing a carrier for carrying the good, the carrier having a detectable carrier identification code and locating the goods in the carrier and associating a logical unit (UWIP) with the carrier, the logical unit comprising information with respect to the goods in or on the carrier. In this embodiment, the method allows detailed tracking of the high valued goods since the goods are contained in a carrier. The goods are identified using the carrier identification code. The carrier may be constructed to prevent access to the goods. The carrier is e.g. sealable.

It is preferred to use in a method and system a logical unit or entity - a unit of work in progress (UWIP) and to track/monitor these units as the goods are processed or handled. Preferably all UWIP' s are linked to a carrier. The UWIP is preferably the smallest identifiable unit on which tracking and tracing takes place. Hence the UWIP is an atomic element or object of the method or system according to the present invention as seen from the point of view of tracking. UWIP's preferably contain all information about their processing history, quality parameters, processing object, e.g. machine related information and security data such as signatures and camera snapshots.

The method can further comprise creating a carrier record associated with the carrier by a controlling unit having a memory and storing the logical unit in the carrier record. The controlling unit is a central unit at a distance from the carrier and capable of tracking the goods through tracking the carrier. The path or route of the carrier with the goods is tracked in the carrier record. The carrier record contains at least a value relating to goods in the carrier identified by the logical unit. Preferably the carrier record contains a value identifying the current location of the carrier.

The method can further comprise processing the carrier/goods in at least two sequential process stages, each process stage associated with a process identification code, registering the carrier identification code at each process stage, sending process registration data from the process stage and receiving said data at the controlling unit after registering the carrier identification code, the process registration data comprising at least the registered carrier identification code and at least the process identification code associated with the process stage, and updating the carrier record associated with the received carrier identification according to the received process registration data.

The carrier will be used as a transportation unit within the processing location such as a factory. Accordingly, the materials being processed or handled are located in carriers and can be transported according to an embodiment from one place to another in accordance with transport tasks.

A method according to an embodiment of the present invention allows tracking of goods by tracking of the carrier and recording the last position of the carrier in a carrier record. In a chain of process steps, the arrival of the carrier at a new process stage is registered by a sensor and an indication thereof is sent to the controlling unit. The controlling unit updates the carrier record. Since the carrier identification, the goods identification of goods contained therein and the logical unit associated therewith are separate information strings, the method according to the invention allows tracking of the goods as well as changes in the goods. According to the invention locating goods in the carrier will result in linking the associated logical unit (UWIP) to the carrier record or storing the associated logical unit (UWIP) in the carrier record. According to an embodiment, if for example goods are added to the carrier, the logical unit of the added goods will be linked to the carrier record or stored in the carrier record. Preferably the logical unit will not merge with the already present logical unit. The logical unit could for example indicate an amount of grams of gold from a certain source. If the carrier contains a certain amount identified by the logical unit from source A and a further amount is added as identified by the further logical unit from source B, the tracking history from both individual units will stay in place.. The method can provide displaying information from the carrier record to an operator. The operator will know the location of goods as tracked in the carrier record. The skilled person will be familiar with software solutions for searching the carrier records maintained in the controlling unit.

Hereinafter, some embodiments of a system for and method of tracking carriers and their content are given as example. These examples specifically relate to tracking the process steps and identifying present status and condition of the content of the carrier. Preferably, locating goods in the carrier comprises registering an operator identification code, and storing the operator identification code in the carrier record. This allows tracking of the operator who has had access to the goods in the carrier. This allows tracing fraud. Preferably, the memory of the controlling unit comprises a list of operators. The operator identification code can be an electronic signature. Such an operator code can be stored on a carrier like a smartcard, a magnetic card, a card with a barcode, etc. However, alternatively, it can be a number known to the operator concerned who has to key in that number on a keyboard of a terminal connected to the controlling unit. Alternatively, it may be a code derived from a biometric feature of the operator, like a finger print or an iris image.

Advantageously, opening the carrier triggers sending an alarm message to the controlling unit, and the method further comprises registering an operator identification code at the process stage, sending the operator identification code and carrier identification code to the controlling unit, verifying the received operator identification code with a value retrieved from the memory and updating the carrier record with the received operator identification code. Opening the carrier will allow access to the goods and possibly removing the goods from the carrier. However according to the invention it is possible that no alarm will be triggered if the operator opening the carrier identifies himself and the identified operator is allowed to open the carrier.

Preferably the memory of the controlling unit comprises a list of operator and security clearances associated with these operators. If the security clearance allows opening the carrier, the operation can be verified and no alarm is necessary. An alarm according to the invention can be any kind of warning, sound, message, etc. initiating an action to prevent further disturbance to the carrier and/or the goods.

According to an embodiment, the method further comprises retrieving an amendment to a logical unit associated with a process stage from the memory, and updating the logical unit in the carrier record in accordance with the amendment associated with the process stage after receiving the process registration data. If the process stage is arranged to perform an action to the goods, the method records this change in the carrier record using the amendment from the memory. If the sensor registers a carrier containing certain goods as identified by the UWIP in the carrier record, performing an action to the goods in the process stage is recorded in the carrier record by amending the UWIP in accordance with the amendment known from the memory and associated with said process stage.

The UWIPs form a refined view on a production / manufacturing / processing order. The amendment relating to the identified process stage is added to the UWIP already present in the carrier record according to this embodiment.

Every time a good as identified by the UWIP is moved or used, it is logged off from the previous and logged on to the next step, wherein for the purpose of the logon additional data required by the method must be provided beforehand (e.g. electronic signatures, quality assurance (QA) check,...), i.e., before this logging off can take place. Every process step results in using input UWIP 's relating to goods to feed a process, thereafter generating output UWIP 's relating to goods that are output by the process. The logging on/off of UWIP' s to certain locations happens by means of the logging on/logging off of the carriers. It is clear that using the above method, all stationary materials in the facility can be located immediately and at any time.

An embodiment of a disclosed method comprises sending logout data and/or login data from two sequential process stages to the controlling unit. The logout data can comprise a signature from an operator with regard to the first process stage. His signature can confirm that the process according to the first process stage is/was performed. The login data can confirm, also by comprising e.g. signature data, that the carrier arrived as expected. The logout data can be sent prior to sending login data. The login data can comprise registering the carrier identification code at the second process stage. Receipt of the logout data confirming conformity with the fact that the process according to the first stage was performed correctly on/with the carrier and/or goods, corresponds with a release form needed to be allowed to enter a next stage. According to an embodiment, the controlling unit can verify whether a release condition was fulfilled. Release conditions can be set or configured and can be retrieved from the memory. The UWIP is the smallest identifiable unit on which tracking and tracing takes place. Hence the UWIP is an atomic element or object of the method or system according to the present invention as seen from the point of view of tracking.

An UWIP can have a different format or formats, with different units of measurement, quantities ...., depending on the process stage (e.g. a pallet, a bin, container, single serialized piece etc.). These UWIP formats are application specific / application dependent and need to be defined by a or the user of the system during the implementation of the method or system. To that effect, the system provides the user with the option of configuring the software running on the system. Since the goods are identified with a UWIP, an embodiment of the method and system can provide ordering functionality similar to known ERP systems.

Hereinafter some embodiments of a system for and method of scheduling a process using carriers are given as example. By using the logical unit UWIP according to the invention such scheduling or planning is possible within the disclosed method and system.

An embodiment further comprises providing an ordered list at the controlling unit of the at least two process stages for processing the carrier/goods, processing the carrier/goods at the at least two process stages. The list can be determined or calculated by the controlling unit.

A system or method according to an embodiment of the present invention receives structured planning related information about the goods to be handled, processed or manufactured in the form of an ordered list of process stages. The list can be called 'production order'. These production orders can include a BOM (i.e., bill of materials) and a ROUTING (i.e. operations to be performed on the goods). Production Orders are typically generated by ERP systems. Well-known finite capacity scheduling tools allow scheduling of the work at every processing location at any time. Moreover, the more advanced versions of these tools will determine which materials are needed at every processing location at any time. Such tools can be used with the present invention. Accordingly, an embodiment of the present invention uses this information to determine which jobs or processes need to be done, at which processing location, using which materials, at a dynamically set time or at a given time. Doing so, the amount of materials needed in the processing location at any time can be reduced, increasing the safety to the highest possible level. The combination of the finite capacity scheduler and a detailed tracking and tracing system or method according to the present invention creates the possibility of any change in the processing/manufacturing environment (e.g. machine breakdown), having an immediate effect on the processing/manufacturing capacity and hereto related schedule, to result in a real time rescheduling of the material needs, using this new situation. Doing so, an increase of the materials stored at processing/manufacturing locations during exception situations is reduced or avoided.

By further associating a time value with the process stage, the method is capable of calculating the amount of time involved with a production order. According to an embodiment, the controlling unit can efficiently plan the orders. Suitable ERP algorithms can be used for planning the handling of orders.

An embodiment of the method further comprises transporting the carrier from a starting location to an end location, wherein said transporting comprises at least a first process stage associated with the starting location, a last process stage associated with the end location, at least one middle process stage associated with transporting. Transport can be an essential part of the method and, if not properly monitored, can result in losing track of the carrier/goods. Using the method and system in combination with a finite planning schedule will increase the possibilities for tracking the carrier/goods.

Of course the method and system provide means for checking the current location of the carrier according to the received carrier registration data and the scheduled location. Non-conformity would trigger an alarm.

Hereunder some embodiments of a system and method of tracking carriers and in particular relating to improvements on information regarding irregularities in the method are given as example.

According to an embodiment, the method further comprises in addition to any of the mentioned features according to this disclosure registering the absence of the carrier identification code at the process stage and triggering an alarm message. The message could be sent to the controlling unit and the message could comprise the carrier identification code. The absence of the carrier, e.g. outside a scanning zone of the sensor, could be a trigger for an alarm, informing an operator of the possible loss of the carrier, or at least a higher security phase.

In a further embodiment, the method comprises verifying at the controlling unit whether process registration data associated with the carrier identification code from a different process stage was received. Within a certain, limited time frame, e.g. 2 minutes, the carrier could be registered at a next process stage. In this way a closed system with full tracking capability would be available. The disappearance of a carrier and its content would be detected within a limited time frame.

A system disclosed in this application for tracking goods could comprise a controlling unit having at least a processing device with at least one memory, a carrier for carrying goods having a carrier identification code, at least two process stages, each process stage having a sensor for registering the carrier identification code, the sensor capable of sending the carrier identification code to the controlling unit, wherein the memory comprises a time value with respect to the first process stage, wherein the controlling unit is arranged for determining a duration of the first process based on received values from the sensor, and arranged for comparing the determined duration with the time value retrieved from the memory. Such a system and a similar method would allow tracking the goods/carrier, but would also detect a malfunction in the process if a certain process stage takes too much time. The controlling unit can trigger different alarms or other reactions such as an automatic connection to and informing of the security agents or police of time and place of the alarm. This system and method provide for a time closed system for tracking goods/carriers.

In a further embodiment, the determined duration can be used for creating a table of processing times and creating a table of performance. A suitable tool, e.g. a software tool could be used to analyze the data and/or to display the data. An embodiment of the method comprises using a memory storing time values for the duration of a process stage as indicated above. A further method comprises determining the duration of processing at the first process stage and comparing the duration with that memory value.

In a preferred embodiment, determining the duration is based on the time difference between registering the carrier identification code at the first process stage and the second process stage, although determining the duration is not limited to this method. Since arrival of the carrier at the second process stage is registered, it is straightforward to determine the duration using both these registrations.

According to a further aspect, a system for tracking goods is provided for reducing at least one of the problems identified above associated with the prior art arrangements. The system comprises a controlling unit having at least a processing device with at least one memory, a carrier for carrying goods having a carrier identification code, the carrier having a closable cavity for receiving the goods, at least two process stages, each process stage having a sensor for registering the carrier identification code, the sensor capable of sending process registration data for identifying the registration to the controlling unit, input device for inputting a logical unit comprising information with respect to the goods in the carrier, the input device capable of sending the logical unit to the controlling device, wherein the controlling unit is arranged to update a carrier record containing the logical unit associated with the carrier registered by the sensor in accordance to the received process registration data. Such a system combines the security of a carrier for valuable goods with the tracking of the carrier at several process stages and with the identification of the goods therein using a logical unit stored at a central location. This system is a simple system but yet provides a high level of security and possibilities for tracking the goods.

At least one of the disadvantages of prior art arrangements is reduced by setting a maximum handling duration for one stage in a process and refining this information to the UWIP level. MES systems will have multiple stages. For at least one, preferably two or more, and more preferably almost all of these stages, a maximum handling time per UWIP is defined. A value is determined for the maximum handling time. In at least a preferred embodiment using an MESsystem, the system can calculate a value for a maximum handling duration. The MES system can calculate e.g. a time for transporting or a maximum duration for picking up a carrier at a location. The system according to the invention provides sensors in at least two sequential stages of a process. This will allow the system, preferably by using data from these sensors, collecting the registered information, in particular the identified carriers,

A further embodiment of the system comprises the input device being arranged for inputting an operator identification code and sending the operator identification code to the controlling unit, wherein the controlling unit is arranged to associate the received operator code with the carrier record. This allows inputting and verifying the state of the carrier/goods. The operator identification code or a similar piece of data can be used to indicate the approval of an operator. The operator is for example satisfied after checking the carrier/contents. In particular the operator can verify the presence of the goods and/or verify that the goods are in a status in conformity with the status according the tracking system. Data from the carrier record can be checked if the operator has access to the information. The information can be provided to him through an output unit for example connected to a network such as the internet. The operator can also approve the logging off of the carrier from a certain process stage. The system will now allow the logging off of the carrier from the first process stage and allow logging on at a second process stage.

The memory preferably comprises a list of process stages and locations thereof, and wherein the controlling unit is arranged to associate the location of the process stage with the carrier record. The controlling unit will, according to this embodiment, be able to identify the location or at least the last known location of the carrier and/or goods.

Preferably, the memory comprises a list of process identifications for each process stage, and wherein the controlling unit is arranged to associate the process identification of the process stage with the carrier record. Registering the carrier and the goods at a certain process stage will be recorded in the carrier record allowing keeping track of the process performed with the carrier/goods.

In order to further enhance security and to be able to react more quickly to a security issue, the memory comprises a time value with respect to the first process stage, wherein the controlling unit is arranged to determine a duration of the first process stage based on received data from the sensor, and arranged to compare the determined duration with the time value retrieved from the memory. If too much time lapses during a certain process stage for a carrier, the system will be able to determine such an error and can respond in a suitable manner. The data relating to the duration could also be used to set up a report regarding the functioning of different process stages. Collecting and recording this data could be helpful in identifying bottlenecks in a series of process stages.

According to an embodiment, the controlling unit has at least a computing device having at least one memory and at least one processing unit and at least a data storage device. The controlling unit is capable of communicating. The controlling unit can receive information relating to the status of the system, can process these indications and react correspondingly, e.g. by using a program stored in a memory or storage device, processing the information and supplying control signals to relevant parts of the system. Communication can comprise a network, possibly wireless, use of a bus and other suitable communication devices.

According to an embodiment, the carrier identification code can be a nonremovable tag connected to the good. The carrier identification code can be any suitable ID such as an optical barcode. However, they are identified most preferably with an electronic ID method such as with RFID/Barcode etc. The present invention supports both recyclable and disposable carriers (ID).

According to an embodiment each process stage has at least one sensor for registering the carrier's identification code, the sensor capable of sending a sensed code to the controlling unit. This allows the controlling unit to gather information regarding the position or status of the carrier in the system.

According to a further aspect, at least one of the problems identified in relation to the prior art is reduced with a computer program product arranged for performing the steps according to any of the methods discussed above and in particular any of the combination of features according to any of the methods mentioned.

According to yet another aspect at least one of the problems identified in relation to the prior art is reduced with a data carrier with a computer program product for performing any of the steps of the method identified in this application. Methods as set out in this application can be used for design purposes, e.g. to analyze work flow and to identify weaknesses such as security weaknesses or inefficiencies. The method may also be used to monitor handling, processing or manufacturing in real time and to provide alarms and instructions to modify the work flow as required. The methods and systems as disclosed in this application will be described in further details with reference to the enclosed drawing, which are only intended to explain some possible embodiments but not to limit the scope of the present invention as defined by the annexed claims and their equivalents. In the drawings:

Figure 1 is a view of an embodiment of a controlling unit and a network for communication.

Figure 2 is a view of an embodiment of several process stages according to the invention.

Figure 3 is an overview of an embodiment of an architecture for method according to the invention.

Figure 4 is an example of an overview for tracing goods according to an embodiment according to the invention.

Figure 5 is a view of an embodiment of a method according to the invention. Figure 6 is an example of a method of displaying the results of tracing according to an embodiment of the invention.

Figure 7 shows a carrier carrying goods and passing a sensor arranged to sense a carrier ID on the carrier. In figure 1, an overview is given of a controlling unit that can be used to carry out the method according to the invention as will be further explained below. The controlling unit comprises a processor 1 for carrying out arithmetic operations. The processor 1 is connected to a plurality of memory components, including a hard disk 5, Read Only Memory (ROM) 7, Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EEPROM) 9, and Random Access Memory (RAM) 11. Not all of these memory types need necessarily be provided. Moreover, these memory components need not be located physically close to the processor 1 but may be located remote from the processor 1.

The processor 1 is also connected to units for inputting instructions, data etc. by a user, like a keyboard 13, and a mouse 15. Other input units, such as a touch screen, a track ball and/or a voice converter, known to persons skilled in the art may be provided too. An operator ID verification unit 2 is connected to the processor 1, which is arranged to read an operator ID, for instance from a smart card, RFID, a magnetic card, barcode card, or any biometric feature from the operator.

A reading unit 17 connected to the processor 1 is provided. The reading unit 17 is arranged to read data from and possibly write data on a data carrier like a floppy disk 19 or a CDROM 21. Other data carriers may be tapes, DVD, Blue Ray disks, memory sticks, etc. as is known to persons skilled in the art. The data carrier may be provided with a computer program product comprising instructions and data arranged to be read by the processor 1 and, after being read, allowing the processor 1 to perform a method in accordance with the invention. Such a computer program product may then be loaded in one of the memory components 5, 7 , 9, 11. However, such computer program product may, alternatively, be downloaded via the telecommunication network 27.

The processor 1 may be connected to a printer 23 for printing output data on paper, as well as to a display 3, for instance, a monitor or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen, a plasma display panel, or any other type of display known to persons skilled in the art. The processor 1 may be connected to a communication network 27, for instance, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), a Local Area Network (LAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN), the Internet, etc. by means of an I/O unit 25. The processor 1 may be arranged to communicate with other communication arrangements through the network 27.

The processor 1 may be implemented as stand alone system, or as a plurality of parallel operating processors each arranged to carry out subtasks of a larger computer program, or as one or more main processors with several sub-processors. Parts of the functionality of the invention may even be carried out by remote processors communicating with processor 1 through the network 27.

Tracking and Tracing

It is preferred to use in the method and system of the invention a logical unit or entity which is called a "unit of work in progress" or "UWIP" and to track/monitor these units as the goods are processed or handled. In order to create detailed traceability information on these UWIP 's, a manufacturing or processing facility is defined as a large logistics system with an independent storage location or warehouse at every location where UWIP's may appear on carriers, i.e. be used or processed. Warehouses can be of different sizes. For example, not only a large storage warehouse is defined (e.g. a vault for cash processing) but also several different small warehouses for the processing locations, next to processing machines, at the receiving area, in the shipping area etc. The facility that is defined as a warehouse can be of any suitable type (Random Access, Sequential or Fill up). For example, very small sequential (FIFO - first in first out) warehouses can be designed in the processing locations, a large random access warehouse (e.g. a vault) can be defined as main storage and a few fill up locations at shipping and receiving can also be defined. The system can easily be configured and this configuration depends on the specific application. Fig. 2 shows a simplified view on a manufacturing, handling and/or processing facility where a warehouse is defined at every location, where materials (UWIP's) appear, for example, around a large central store 29 (main warehouse / vault), in processing locations 31, 33, at a quality control location 35, at receiving / shipping locations 37, 39, 41, 43, 45, 47. Shipment may be provided with any suitable transport medium like a lorry 51, 53 and a forklift 49, a conveyer belt (not shown), etc. These warehouses can be configured as any one selected at least from the group of random access (e.g. Central Store), sequential (FIFO/LIFO - e.g. conveyer belt in processing location) or fill up (e.g. floor space) types. Other types may also be added. Carriers

According to an embodiment of the present invention, an, any or all UWIP's (logical entities) will always be linked to a warehouse carrier 55, i.e. a physical entity like a container, such as a sealed container, a box, a cup, a bottle, etc. containing the goods 57 associated with the UWIP concerned and be linked to a warehouse location. This link between any UWIP and a warehouse (factory) location is always maintained to thereby create a 100% traceability of the materials used in the processes, e.g. in the warehouse-vault, in the receiving area, in a processing location X, in a processing room Y, at a machine Z in the shipping area etc. For the random access and sequentially defined warehouses, the specific warehouse location giving the most detailed location information on the UWIP or materials can be added. All warehouse locations have a unique warehouse ID and all carriers have a unique carrier ID 59. Any of these ID's can be any suitable ID such as an optical barcode on a barcode carrier (a tag, a plastic card, etc.). However, they are identified most preferably with an electronic ID method such as with an ID stored in a RFID carrier, a smartcard, a magnetic card etc. The logging on/off of UWIP's to certain locations happens by means of the logging on/logging off of the carriers. The present invention supports both recyclable and disposable carriers (ID). It is clear that using the above method, all stationary materials in the facility can be located immediately and at any time.

Figure 7 shows the carrier 57 carrying goods 57 and passing a sensor 61 arranged to sense the carrier ID 59 on the carrier 57. The carrier 57 may be passed by the sensor 61 by an operator who has identified himself to the system or may be guided along the sensor 61 by a transporting unit like a conveyor belt, a forklift, etc. Such a sensor 61 is provided at any entrance and any exit (which may be the same) of any warehouse. The sensor 61 is arranged to send any sensing signal indicating the carrier ID 59 to processor 1 as indicated with a wire connected to the sensor 61. Communication with processor 61 may, alternatively, be wireless.

Relocation

During the execution of the work the materials are moved between the defined warehouses 29-35 in the facility according to a certain schedule. In order to minimize the materials on the shop floor, an internal supply chain tool can be used that synchronizes the scheduled work with the availability of these materials (BOM items) at the right place at the right time, for executing this work (generally known as finite scheduling). Given the fact that in today's facilities a lot of different transport methods and automation are present, the tracking and traceability system according to the present invention is flexible and supports heterogeneous transport networks.

A need for materials to be relocated from a location A (e.g. in a vault) to another location B (e.g. in a processing room), hereinafter named transport order can result in the need for several sequential transport tasks. A transport order is the request for a certain UWIP to be moved from a location A to location B - such transport order is always subject to a release condition, e.g. operator request. The operator uses one of the input units 13, 15, 17 to input the transport order into the system. The processor 1 processes the transport order. The processor 1 according to the present invention uses the transport order to generate the needed transport tasks, whereby a transport task covers an intermediate transport, executed by a single transport medium 49, 51, 53. Preferably, such a transport task is executed immediately on availability of the transport medium 49, 51, 53.

Memory 5, 7, 9, 11 stores routing tables containing possible routes that can be followed by all available transport media. Using such routing tables with a consideration of priorities, and the availability of alternative transport systems, the processor 1 according to the present invention will determine an optimum transport method and hereto related transport tasks. Alternative routings and/or warehouse locations may be defined by the processor 1 automatically in case of exceptions (e.g. device out of use - or capacity problem such as conveyer belt full - warehouse location occupied by a manual unannounced intervention...). These exceptions result in deleting the originally generated transport task, creating new needed transport tasks and creating a message for the system for further reporting.

In figure 3 a multilayered logical structure is defined as used to store data and instructions in memory 5, 1, 9, 11 relating to the program(s) run by processor 1 to perform the method according to the invention. A warehouse management system WHMS function 63 including warehouse management components covers the inventory, location management and other necessary store and retrieval data (e.g. entry date for FIFO..). A warehouse control system WCS layer 65:

(i) selects the warehouse or warehouse location for storage/retrieval

(ii) generates the transport order

(iii) selects the optimal routing for the transport order (iv) generates and coordinates transport tasks with the heterogeneous transport networks

(v) handles the exception management and release management.

An equipment control system ECS layer 67 handles the

(i) sequence optimization of the transport tasks, (ii) traffic control (e.g. AGV's/multi crane ASRS...) and

(iii) visualization and alarm management.

Equipment control EC layers 69, 73 typical belongs to the equipment manufacturer and

(i) executes a single task and (ii) covers the needed I/O functions.

Moreover, the logical structure may comprise a third party equipment control system layer 71 and a lift truck interface layer 75.

For every material / good 57 moved in the facility the respective UWIP will be logged off from the previous location (or transport device) and logged on to the next location (or transport device) in one single indivisible transaction action in the program running on processor 1. This algorithm guarantees that every UWIP will have a unique designated location at any time.

Putting a UWIP on a time line axis view, gives an overview of the UWIP location in time. For example, a cash processing room receives a cash container containing an amount of cash from an automated vault with a conveyer belt, automatically guided vehicle AGV and forklift transport needed to do the job. To pull the cash container from the automated warehouse, e.g. a task is generated for, for example, a warehouse crane that drops the cash container on a transport belt at the end of the warehouse. At the end of that conveyer belt, the container is picked up by an AGV, after which it will be dropped at an intermediate location and picked up by a forklift to bring it to the final destination or processing room. Every single step in this process is generated as a transport task, sent to the specific equipment control EC and monitored by the system, after which the next transport task for the next transport device is generated in a similar way.

In this way, from the moment of picking up to dropping off, processor 1 links the container 55 and any UWIP 's in the container 55 to the respective transport device, and, preferably, considers a maximum allowed transport time. In case the processor 1 detects that the actual transport time exceeds this maximum allowed transport time the processor 1 generates an alarm.

The transport device and transportation time axis are linked to the UWIP for further traceability reasons. Intermediate points/timeframes, in order to more monitor the carriers and any UWIP 's in the container 55 in detail, can be defined as well. If the processor detects that the container 55 does not reach a certain destination or intermediate point at a scheduled time, the processor 1 generates an alarm and starts an immediate search. This method allows tracing of the moving materials in detail. Combining this feature with the previous ones, the processor 1 is able to trace the physical locations of the materials at any time. If during these transport tasks, one or more operator(s) are needed, the processor needs to receive data as to their identity (ies). Such an operator identity can be stored on a carrier like a smartcard (RFID), a magnetic card, a card with a barcode, etc. that is shown by the operator to the operator ID verification unit 2 (Figure 1). However, alternatively, it can be a number known to the operator concerned who has to key in that number on keyboard 13 connected to processor 1. Alternatively, it may be a code derived from a biometric feature of the operator, like a finger print or an iris image that is sensed by verification unit 2. Such an operator ID, as well as an electronic signature(s) is preferably added to the UWIP information as well, featuring a detailed view on who was touching the goods 57 (and carriers 55) during transport. Figure 4 provides an example and a clear view of how the processor 1 shows data on monitor 3 as to where all UWIP's were in a specified time frame. Thus, figure 4 shows where one could find which UWIP at any time. There is also a clear indication of which UWIP was transported by which device at a certain time. As an extra benefit one can easily get information about the load and productivity of the transportation equipment (% effective use). Last but not least information is available on who was processing/handling/touching the materials in which stage.

In Figure 4, "ASRS" is an abbreviation of "automated storage/retrieval system". Genealogy

There is not only the ability to find the materials location at any time but, in an embodiment, the computer program running on processor 1 also provides a genealogy function covering the detailed tracking and tracing of the raw materials used (input UWIP 's) in the end-product (output UWIP 's). In the processing rooms (or at machine locations), the materials (UWIP 's) may change and be linked with other UWIP's used during the process. E.g. during a packaging process the packaging materials input UWIP and unpacked goods UWIP will be linked and result in a new packed goods UWIP, whereby all traceability details form the input UWIPS is kept and linked to the output UWIP. This traceability is kept to the lowest BOM level where all the history data from the raw materials are directly linked to the completed or shipped end product. All relevant machine data is included, and also processing time and operator(s) attendance(s) and any identification such as electronic signature(s) to the output UWIP. In highly secured environments it is preferred to capture images during at least one critical process step (e.g. closing secured container -carrier) that are linked to the UWIP. To that end, in such an embodiment, a digital camera will be provided that is arranged to (automatically) send pictures (or short movies) to processor 1 which will then store such pictures in its memory 5, 7, 9, 11. Looking at the data available for an end-product UWIP one is able to drill down to the most detailed tracking information on every UWIP of the lowest BOM level of that end product UWIP.

For the high- valued goods, preferably the system has a 100% direct link between the in- and output UWIPS, however for some not critical materials such as e.g. tape for packaging , the time axis function can be used to create this IN/OUT UWIP link.

Figure 5 shows a method, based on an embodiment of the present invention for tracing non-critical materials by using the time axis. Every UWIP (in - and out) is logged on/off at a processing room or production machine with a time stamp. Using this time stamp one can trace which non-critical material was used where in the output UWIP. This method will typical be used for raw materials in bulk such as e.g. glue, tape etc. Good Manufacturing Practices enforcement

An advantage of the present invention is the ability to enforce the correct manufacturing process and quality control. The enforcement double checks all operator related activity. As explained above, the defined UWIP 's contain information about their location, history, machines and operators working on them, genealogy... They also can contain information about their quality and quality status. The UWIP embedded information supports the enforcement of GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) on different levels. On every operation BOM integrity checks can be implemented (i.e. is the correct material being used?) and QA status checks (are the materials approved and/or released for use?) as well as operator sequence checks (are the materials used in the right sequence?). By doing so, the system and method of the present invention forces the operators to use the right materials, at the right time in the right sequence, to thereby avoid costly mistakes. During the processes, quality information is returned from the process to the UWIP by adding it to the UWIP - e.g. Fit/Unfϊt/Reject bills during cash processing.

The system is preferably arranged to refuse any automatic logon of incorrect UWIP's, using this information and warn the operator. A supervisor might overrule this, if the system is configured in a way that he/she has the authority to do so. The supervisor will have to identify himself to the system as explained above. In an embodiment, the processor 1, after having received the supervisor ID, uses this supervisor ID to produce an electronic signature and attaches the electronic signature to the UWIP(s) processed with the exception.

Machine Monitoring Information To continuously improve the processes, OEE (Overall Equipment

Efficiency) measuring tools can be installed. These tools typical register out of bound machine parameters and standstills. Such tools are connected to the processor 1 and arranged to provide information as to out of bound machine parameters and standstills to processor 1. The computer program as running on the processor 1 comprises powerful analysis tools that deliver useful analysis information relating to such out of bound machine parameters and standstills. Processor 1 may be arranged to then use this information for process improvement.

The system and method of the present invention can also include this machine-related information in the output UWIP of the respective process. By doing so, a link is created between the produced materials (UWIP's) and machine standstills/out of bound parameters, from which one can always determine that eventual quality deviations in the end-product are related to such standstills or out of bound parameters. Machine standstills and out of bound parameters may also be used to mark all output UWIP's related with an exception with a quality status 'suspect ', resulting in the need for an additional inspection before further use.

Reporting Fig. 6 shows the methods of display which can be used with the present invention. Display can be by any suitable means, e.g. visual display units, projector(s), printed documents, plots, etc., as already explained with reference to figure 1.

In every processing facility, different functions within the production facility need different views on the same information. The method and system of the present invention may provide extensive supports these views. Such views may include the following.

People working with the Planning are using ERP systems looking at shop orders with their respective BOM and Routings. On a Scheduling level one focuses on a certain production with the required materials for this production. Within the factory (Production view), the different defined warehouse locations with their current UWIP's are viewed. This function provides detailed information on what is where in the facility at which status. Due to the defined UWIP's, and attached information, a very detailed view on the inventory is provided; while one will only find a number of parts on-hand in ERP. The method and system of the present invention determines which materials are available for use, which materials are blocked or waiting for inspection, how many of these materials have been processed at the current moment. Furthermore the exact real-time status of every UWIP in the facility is known or can be determined.

The logistics view helps find and trace specific UWIP's. Real-time location information is obtained of every single UWIP in the factory. Since UWIP's are logical entities, they are always connected with a physical entity (carrier). Every carrier has a defined location at any time, featuring that a specific UWIP can be located within seconds.

Claims

Claims
1. Method of tracking a carrier of goods comprising,
- providing a carrier for carrying the goods, the carrier having a detectable carrier identification code
- creating a carrier record associated with the carrier by a controlling unit having a memory
- locating the goods in the carrier and associating a logical unit (UWIP) with the carrier, the logical unit comprising information with respect to the goods in the carrier,
- linking the logical unit to, or storing in the carrier record associated with the carrier,
- processing the carrier/goods in at least two sequential process stages, each process stage associated with a process identification code, - registering the carrier identification code at each process stage,
- sending process registration data from each process stage and receiving said data at the controlling unit after registering the carrier identification code, the process registration data comprising at least the registered carrier identification code and at least the process identification code associated with each process stage, - updating the carrier record associated with the received carrier identification according to the received process registration data.
2. Method according to claim 1, wherein locating goods in the carrier comprises registering an operator identification code, and storing the operator identification code in the carrier record.
3. Method according to claim 1 or 2, wherein opening the carrier triggers sending an alarm message to the controlling unit, and the method further comprising registering an operator identification code at the process stage, sending the operator identification code and carrier identification code to the controlling unit, verifying the received operator identification code with a value retrieved from the memory and updating the carrier record with the received operator identification code.
4. Method according to any of the preceding claims, the method further comprising providing an ordered list at the controlling unit of the at least two process stages for processing the carrier/goods, processing the carrier/goods at the at least two process stages.
5. Method according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the controller unit is arranged to determine the ordered list for handling the carrier.
6. Method according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the method further comprises associating a time value with the process stage.
7. Method according to any of the preceding claims, the method further comprising transporting the carrier from a starting location to an end location, wherein said transporting comprises at least a first process stage associated with the starting location, a last process stage associated with the end location, and at least one middle process stage associated with transporting.
8. Method according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the memory provides an amendment to a logical unit associated with a process stage, and wherein receiving process registration data will result in updating the logical unit in the carrier record in accordance with the amendment associated with the process stage.
9. Method according to any of the preceding claims, wherein registering the absence of the carrier identification code at the process stage triggers sending an alarm message with the carrier identification code to the controlling unit and verifying at the controlling unit whether process registration data associated with the carrier identification code from a different process stage was received.
10. Method according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the method further comprises transferring the carrier from a first process stage to a second process stage, determining the duration of processing at the first process stage and comparing the duration with a memory value.
11. Method according to any of the preceding claims, wherein determining the duration is based on the time difference between registering the carrier identification code at the first process stage and the second process stage.
12. System for tracking goods comprising:
- a controlling unit having at least a processor with at least one memory,
- a carrier for carrying goods, the carrier having a carrier identification code,
- at least two process stages, each process stage having a sensor for registering the carrier identification code, the sensor capable of sending process registration data for identifying the registration to the controlling unit,
- an input device for inputting a logical unit (UWIP) comprising information with respect to the goods in the carrier, the input device capable of sending the logical unit to the controlling device, wherein the controlling unit is arranged to update a carrier record containing the logical unit associated with the carrier registered by the sensor in accordance with the received process registration data.
13. System according to claim 12, wherein the input device is further arranged for inputting an operator identification code and sending the operator identification code to the controlling unit, wherein the controlling unit is arranged to associated the received operator code with the carrier record.
14. System according to claim 12 or 13, wherein the memory comprises a list of process stages and locations thereof, and wherein the controlling unit is arranged to associate the location of the process stage with the carrier record.
15. System according to any of the claims 12-14, wherein the memory comprises a list of process identifications for each process stage, and wherein the controlling unit is arranged to associate the process identification of the process stage with the carrier record.
16. System according to any of the claims 12-15, wherein the memory comprises a time value with respect to the first process stage, wherein the controlling unit is arranged for to determine a duration of the first process stage based on received data from the sensor, and arranged for comparing the determined duration with the time value retrieved from the memory.
17. Computer program that can be loaded by a controlling unit, and after being loaded providing the controlling unit with the capacity to:
- create a carrier record in a memory, the carrier record being associated with a carrier for carrying goods, the carrier having a detectable carrier identification code
- link a logical unit (UWIP) to, or store a logical unit in the carrier record associated with the carrier, the logical unit (UWIP) comprising information with respect to the goods in the carrier, - register the carrier identification code when the carrier / goods are processed at at least two sequential process stages, each process stage associated with a process identification code,
- receive process registration data from the process stages after registering the carrier identification code, the process registration data comprising at least the registered carrier identification code and at least the process identification code associated with the process stages,
- update the carrier/UWIP records associated with the received carrier identification according to the received process registration data.
18. Data carrier with a computer program product according to claim 17.
19. System for tracking goods comprising :
- a controlling unit having at least a processing device with at least one memory,
- a carrier for carrying goods having a carrier identification code,
- at least two process stages, each process stage having a sensor for registering the carrier identification code, the sensor capable of sending the carrier identification code to the controlling unit, wherein the memory stores a maximum time value with respect to the first process stage indicating a maximum amount of time the carrier is allowed to be in said first process stage, wherein the controlling unit is arranged for determining a duration of the first process based on received values from the sensor, and arranged for comparing the determined duration with the maximum time value retrieved from the memory.
PCT/EP2008/051630 2007-02-09 2008-02-11 Configurable system, method and associated software for managing the manufacturing and processing of high valued goods in high volume WO2008096016A1 (en)

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