ISO9001:2008 clause 7.5.3 how do you identify your products?

In clause 7.5.3 of the ISO9001:2008 quality standard it states a requirement (where appropriate, of course) to identify your products by suitable means throughout your production process. I read this to mean that from the moment goods hit your door (or maybe sooner) those goods must be easily and accurately identified.

Recently I ran across a gentleman who believes that if the very experienced employees “just know” what an item is, sitting on an unmarked shelf, that’s good enough. This doesn’t seem like a great idea to me, and the ISO9001 standard doesn’t think so either. His system (no, he’s not ISO registered) is working for him now, as it has for the past 15 years. But it’s easy to find potential problems with a lack of product identification. People make mistakes. People forget things. People quit their jobs or are let go. People get ill or have accidents. Relying on an experienced employee to “just know” what your products are, without any sort of identification, will most certainly cause problems that could be easily avoided by using a simple method of identification.

I realize its not always easy to identify every component throughout every process. For example, you don’t want to attach an ID tag to a part that’s going through a paint process. The paint will cover up the tag, and the tag could mask a section of the part, ruining the paint job. In a case like this, how about having some kind of traveling document that stays “with” the part throughout the process? Maybe the tag, or traveler, could be on a hook labeled “rack 1” while its associated part or parts are on paint rack 1. Or you could use a barcode and scanner system, with a bar code on the part or paperwork, and that barcode is scanned at the beginning of each process.

If the same part is always stored on the same shelf location, identification could be as simple as a piece of duct tape attached to the shelf face, with the part number written on it with a Sharpie. We’re talking about a 4 to 5 dollar investment in your identification process, it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. And even if this simple identification system saves just one mis-shipment down the road, isn’t it worth it?

There are undoubtedly many ways of identifying your parts. What method do you use?

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