Using QR codes in your manufacturing facility

Feb. 7, 2022

Everyone is familiar with QR codes after Covid19 checkins, and they can be incredibly useful in many manufacturing and operational processes across a wide variety of industries.

In a manufacturing environment, QR codes can be used to track and monitor your products, data, plant and equipment, and processes. For example, attach a QR code to your equipment to provide easy access to:

  • service history, maintenance schedules, service manuals;
  • operation manuals, Safe Operating Procedures, instructional video;
  • safety inspection checklists, maintenance report forms;
  • maintenance requests, issue reporting;
  • supplier websites for ordering replacement parts / consumables.

So how do they work?

The QR Code is like a barcode, but two-dimensional. It's made up of black and white squares arranged in a square grid. Information is encoded inside the grid and can be read by computers.

When you scan the QR code, your device (e.g. smartphone) decodes the information.

The more information you want to store, the more squares you need in the grid. QR Codes start at 21 rows by 21 columns, and can go up to 177 x 177. The maximum amount of information that can be encoded is limited to ~3 kilobytes of data.

Most commonly the information embedded in a QR Code is a URL, but QR Codes can be used to store all kinds of information, such as:

  • contact info - phone number, email address, street address that will automatically be added to Contacts on your phone;
  • a map location by latitude and longitude;
  • a WiFi network and password, so it's easier to share;
  • payment information;
  • a part number;
  • product batch number & date;
  • a location ID as used in Covid check-in apps.
  • QR codes can even help with robot navigation.

In some of these cases, you have to scan the QR Codes from a dedicated App that knows what information to expect and what to do with it.

When you scan a QR Code with a URL, your device knows to open your browser. Scanning a QR code is a lot easier than manually typing in a URL, and the possibilities of what the webpage can provide are almost endless - documents to download, form to fill in, audio, video, etc.

How do QR Codes link to your plant, products, or processes?

QR codes make it very easy for users to access information, since the only thing needed to scan the QR Code is a smartphone. In manufacturing and operational processes they can be used for a range of purposes, such as:

  • Tracking products:

QR codes can contain product and batch information used to track the movement of products through the supply chain. This traceability can help to pinpoint a problem if anything goes wrong.

  • Monitoring data:

You could use a QR code to easily access monitoring data for a machine or process. A QR code can direct operators to the correct forms for entering process data, or to add maintenance records, inspection records, etc.

  • Documentation:

The QR code can reference product information like technical specifications, or link to relevant management system documentation like equipment manuals, maintenance plans, work instructions, 'how-to' videos, inspection & test plans.

  • Helping your people navigate your compliance system:

Your employees can use their smartphones to scan a QR code that directly links to relevant information in your management system, e.g. post a QR code on the vehicle dashboard so the driver can easily bring up the vehicle service history when they need to show compliance records for onsite visits.

  • Promoting your business:

If you have an online presence, you can create a QR code that links to your company website. These are often on business cards, but you'll also see them on service vehicles. (Just don't scan while driving!)

Accessing QR Codes in Toolbox

Quality Systems Toolbox software generates QR codes for individual Documents, Assets, and Registers. There's also QR codes for reporting NCR/CAPA, hazards, injuries and other Issues and Incidents.

If you're tracking and reporting on Issues by branch location, product lines, departments, or projects in QSToolbox, you can embed that in the QR code so you don't have to rely on users to remember to enter it.

Here are some examples of how you might use QR codes:

  • Documents:

Print out the QR code as a label and attach to specific workstations or items of plant and equipment so that operators can simply scan the code with their mobile to access the operating instructions,

If you use hard copies, include the QR code in the document itself, so it's easy to check whether the hard copy is up-to-date - just scan the QR code to access the current version information in QSToolbox.

  • Registers:

Attach the QR code to where ever you're doing data collection. Operators scan the code to go directly to the correct place to enter the data. e.g. process data for a workstation.

  • Assets:

Attach a QR code to the vehicle dashboard to replace paper pre-start inspection forms.

  • Issues / Incidents:

Post the 'Report an Issue' QR code on the workshop notice board to reduce the barriers for workers to report nonconformance.

There's no more chasing bits of paper around the work space! No more running out of forms.

To see where to find QR codes in Toolbox, have a look at our support page on QR codes.

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