Trackable Fasteners

Chip-equipped bolts for Gen 5 small-block engine

Andy Bolig - January 13, 2014 11:27 AM


The GM Tonawanda Engine Plant uses a specialized bolt with memory to track each machining process. The track and trace system ensures each machining process has been completed and allows data to be downloaded at assembly completion.

Photo Credit: GM

The final assembly area at GM’s Tonawanda Engine Plant. GM recently invested $400 million into its Tonawanda Engine Plant to build the Gen 5 Small Block for the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, Corvette and GMC Sierra.

Photo Credit: GM

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Databolts can reliably identify the exact time and place a block or head goes through each process

For many years, General Motors has used radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on engine assembly systems for process tracking.

The Gen 5 Small Block program is among the first to also use RFID-enabled track-and-trace databolts as a quality control measure during the machining of engine blocks and cylinder heads.
There are 29 machining processes for Gen 5 blocks and 11 machining processes for Gen 5 heads. Databolts are installed on each block and head at the beginning to help ensure that no processes are missed. At the end of machining, the databolt travels with the part to the assembly line where the block and head are assembled into an engine. Databolts can reliably identify the exact time and place a block or head goes through each process.

The databolts are scanned at the end of machining line to confirm successful completion of all processes. Databolts also help confirm that each engine block is leak-free when tested. If a flaw is discovered on a block or head, its databolt enables identification of the blocks and heads made before and after the part for further inspection. This allows line operators to determine if the issue was an anomaly or a larger problem. This measure also helps ensure that no defective parts leave the plant. At end of the assembly line the databolt is removed, and reused.

Each databolt holds 2048 bytes (2 kb), relatively little by general computer standards, but more than plenty to track detailed information of each process. GM also uses a parallel IT Quality system called Flexnet where the information from databolts is transferred and stored for future reference.

Tonawanda produces Gen 5 Small Block engines, including the 6.2L V-8 for 2014 Chevrolet Corvette, and the 4.3L V-6, 5.3L V-8, 6.2L V-8 for the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.