Why Traceability Matters in the Automotive Industry: A Modern Use Case

by Christian-Uwe Rogers-Neu, Track and Trace Expert, Movilitas

Vehicles are a feat of modern engineering and there are a lot of parts that go into building each one from the engine to tiny microchips. How do you go about tracking them?  

Let’s start with the vehicle identification number (VIN) that was created in the 1950s to identify every automobile. This digit sequence is unique to each vehicle and provides quite a bit of information. This data helps businesses and owners in various ways from recall notices to repairs.  

decode the vin-image-blog

Source: Decode the VIN

However, there can be a lack of integration from the parts to the complete car to the eventual owner. These gaps make it difficult to track each component which reduces efficiency and profitability throughout the supply chain and product lifecycle. By adding a track and trace solution to the mix, you can achieve end-to-end traceability.

Capturing Data Inside and Outside of the Four Walls

An integrated MES and track and trace solution can support quality assurance across the automotive assembly process. The product history is captured at each stage as it moves through the line and finishing. For example, the tires are delivered from the supplier and installed on the car frame before its sent for finishing and a quality check. While it is traveling across the plant, we capture the multiple events, such as

  • when it reached tire installation
  • how long it took to finish
  • where it is currently located, and
  • when it arrived at the last stage before rolling off the line

Knowing precisely where each part is located inside the plant allows you to plan the assembly process more efficiently and identify improvement areas. Many of these factories use just-in-time and just-in-sequence practices to complete the work. Each serialized part that ends up in the car’s assembly is tightly bound to the VIN that allows us to check on certain parts and create multi-level hierarchies of components and subassemblies.

These multi-level hierarchies allow you to instantly trace back each piece and break up assemblies down to their camshaft or sparkplugs. This information allows you to know the status of each part at any time. This creates 100% transparency even across multiple plants in different countries that deliver various components for the same VIN.

A Modern Traceability Use Case: Battery Recall

Now, let’s assume we have a product recall claim. Because every part is uniquely identifiable, we can easily locate the affected component and dig even deeper to answer the questions such as:

  • Which supplier did it come from?
  • Where and when was it assembled?
  • What parameters were used to assemble it (ex: torque values)?

We can now access the product history and quality reports. The detailed data and pictures provide clues to why the part failed. Furthermore, we can tell that only this part in this specific assembly in this specific car needs to be recalled.

A tailored approach protects your brand and checkbook from the effects of a broader notice issued by you and/or the government.


Battery Recall Case, Source: Movilitas

  1. The supply chain supervisor reviews the product genealogy of a specific battery and finds a quality issue
  2. Leveraging SAP Corporate Serialization with the MES (in this example, SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud (SAP DMC)), the supervisor can quickly identify the parts affected
  3. Additionally, track and trace data allows you to see the affected customer(s) and starts the notification process

The Importance of Traceability

These scenarios are real use cases from a leading automotive manufacturers. SAP Corporate Serialization enables these companies to track its uniquely identified objects, such as products and parts across the supply chain.

There are benefits to taking an integrated approach to traceability in discrete manufacturing. The seamless data capture between the MES, a track and trace solution, your ERP and other systems help:

  • Reduce the risk of recalls and makes them easier
  • Protects consumers from damaged or counterfeit products
  • Improves inventory management
  • Safeguards your brand
  • Support lean manufacturing efforts (continuous improvement, value mapping, etc.)

If you would like to learn more about SAP Corporate Serialization, download How to Increase Product Visibility Through Integrated Tracking. Discover the benefits of moving your MES to the cloud on our SAP DMC solution page.