We're often asked what industry represents our largest customer base. The answer is pretty simple - manufacturing represents our largest customer base for RFID. It also represents the industry in which there is still the most opportunity for growth. There are so many potential applications for RFID in manufacturing, from asset tracking to work-in-process, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Why Use RFID in Manufacturing?
With reduced costs of implementation, the barriers to use RFID in manufacturing have never been more lower and increased efficiencies afforded by RFID technology leads to saving both time and money. In addition, RFID provides increased visibility into your operations data and you'll be able to make quicker and better business decisions.
What are the Key Components of RFID in Manufacturing?
RFID systems are made of three main components: RFID tags, RFID readers and RFID middleware.
- RFID tags are essentially small memory banks, storing bits of valuable information that can be used for a variety of purposes. They use radio waves to communicate with nearby readers, sending over portions of identifying data. The information stored in RFID tags can range anywhere from a single serial number to multiple pages of data.
- RFID readers, on the other hand, are basically at the other end of the information exchange. They are what we use to take those radio waves from the tags and translate them back into useful data. RFID readers are devices with one or more antennas that can emit their own radio waves and scan the signals of any RFID tags within range.
- RFID middleware serves as the essential interface between the reader and your company databases and information management software. Not only does middleware handle communication between the RFID reader and your existing systems, but it also helps to filter, aggregate and interpret all the data coming from the RFID tags,
RFID tags transmit data about an item through radio waves to the antenna/reader combination. Passive RFID tags do not have a battery; instead , they use energy from the radio waves generated by the reader. Most passive RFID tags are made of a few different parts:
- The RFID inlay - a microchip/antenna/polyester film combination
- A white polyester film that forms the body of the RFID tag
- A clear polyester label face substrate
These labels are commonly coated with an adhesive that is used to adhere to objects they are tracking. RFID tags also come without adhesive and can be attached as a hanging type tag or even applied through different types of mechanical fasteners.
RFID readers offer some versatility depending on the needs of your application. You can have mobile readers that you can carry around in your hand to scan tags, or they can be mounted in a single location to scan tags that enter their proximity. RFID readers can even be built into existing architecture like a cabinet or doorway.
RFID Check In/Check Out Systems
Using RFID for check in/check out systems means no more manual counting, no more scanning individual barcodes saving both time and money. RFID software programs like Grey Trunk RFID offers this feature, allowing you to scan, check in and check out multiple items instantly. Check out www.GreyTrunkRFID.com for more information or to schedule a demo.
Using RFID for Work-in-Process (WIP) Tracking
Using RFID for work-in-process tracking improves data accuracy, informs analysis, reduces labor time and increases the rate of production. For example, RFID tags can
relay real-time notifications and cause actions to take place to safeguard the manufacturing assets in the process. In addition, using RFID tags management can be proactive, rather than reactive, to abnormalities on the line.
Worn parts in the mechanical flow of production, for example, can be detected by tag sensors and exchanged before an entire line shuts down and potentially affects production: product (mangled/disabled), labor (idle) and output (delayed).
Through analysis of the overall data gathered by an RFID system, entire line configurations related to WIP might be enhanced or changed for more efficiency since operations are made more visible through RFID technology: lead time always being an important consideration in commerce.
Benefits of Using RFID in Manufacturing/Production Environments
The benefits of RFID in manufacturing include:
- Improve accuracy and reliability in your supply chain. A big problem facing supply chain managers today is the potential for errors - leading to missed shipments, running out of inventory, product losses or deliveries ending up at the wrong locations. Manual processes are a common issue as many systems sill operate using handwritten information, which can often lead to errors. Even barcode scanning requires some level of manual interaction, but with RFID tracking it can be automated and updated real-time.
- Improve production line efficiency. Does a specific part get paint where another part doesn't? Where does a specific part go next in the production process? A quick read of the RFID tag - even under a coat of paint - allows you to streamline and segment your production processes, freeing up valuable resources to use in other areas.
Increase accuracy of inventory management. Using RFID in your inventory management process is a more efficient way to help you stay on top of what you
currently have in stock and what needs to be replenished. Tagging raw materials or even the location of raw materials leads to a more accurate method of inventory control, which allows for more efficient production planning and provides real-time visibility into inventory levels so you can easily monitor and prevent shrinkage.
- Maximize asset utilization. Let's pick a specific asset to illustrate this benefit - returnable containers. A lot of manufacturing companies have pallets, racks, bins, etc. they send out with either materials to other locations or finished products to distributors or customers. Many of these containers are specialized and therefore, expensive to replace. Incorporating an RFID system into your container management program makes this process easy and helps ensure the pallets, racks, bins, etc., you send out are returned. Plus, you don't waste money replacing assets that have gone missing simply because you don't have a way to track them. In addition, you can track information about the container itself or even the contents within the container.
- Improve overall ROI. Perhaps you have considered RFID for your manufacturing application in the past but were not able to justify the investment. I encourage you to take another look. Because of the increased rate of adoption for RFID in manufacturing as we as the growing number of applications available to manufacturers, the barriers to entry have never been lower. Infrastructure that may have been too costly in the past has become more commonplace and, therefore, more affordable. In addition, the ability to utilize the infrastructure for multiple RFID applications reduces costs and increases ROI even more.
Better Production Security with RFID
RFID technology offers a higher level of security than barcodes, which helps prevent the spread of sensitive information. For example, RFID tags are more difficult to counterfeit than barcodes. This makes them a more secure options for tracking items and protection against fraud. RFID tags can also be read from farther away than barcodes, making them more efficient for tracking large quantities of items. Overall, RFID provides a higher level of security and efficiency than barcodes, making RFID a better choice of businesses and organizations that need to protect their sensitive information.
Easier Inventory Management with RFID
Stay current with your inventory with one quick scan using RFID. Quickly know what you have in stock and what you need more of in a matter of seconds versus hours when using barcode. Tagging raw materials or even the location of raw materials leads to a more accurate method of inventory control which allows for more efficient production planning.
In addition, the ability to quickly read and have important data about critical production equipment readily available for use in the scheduling process is another way to improve production line efficiency. Use this data to schedule routine maintenance during off-peak times and keep equipment available and running during busy periods ensuring parts get out the door on time for your customers.
Faster Production Execution with RFID Tracking
A quick scan of the RFID tag allows you to streamline and segment your production processes, freeing up valuable resources to use in other areas. Monitor and schedule routine maintenance to reduce downtime and make sure your equipment is available and functioning.
- Monitor operations
- Optimize production processes
- Monitor equipment by tagging machines, conveyors, trucks or forklifts
Using RFID for Better Logistics/Supply Chain Visibility
The ability to track product information at all stages of the supply chain increases accuracy, efficiency and accountability. Using RFID brings transparency to your supply chain. Knowing what shipments are correct, incorrect or when something is missing is critical to ensuring efficient operations.
Metalcraft Solutions for RFID Tracking for Production Plants
Incorporating RFID into your manufacturing operations will lead to increased efficiencies which ultimately leads to saving time and money. With increased visibility into your operations data, you'll be able to make quicker and better business decisions for yourself as well as your customers.
Metalcraft can assist you in developing an asset management program in a number of different ways. Our Ultimate Guide to Asset Tracking and the supplemental resource the Asset Tracking Checklist are great tools to use on your own or you can contact Metalcraft at [email protected] or 800-437-5283 to speak with one of our ID Specialists who will qualify your application and get you on your way to better asset management with Metalcraft identification products.
About the Author: Tyler Johnson
Tyler has extensive experience and expertise in the identification industry. Prior to Grey Trunk RFID, he worked at Metalcraft which helped him understand the importance of a high quality identification tag. Now he is leading the team at Grey Trunk RFID to offer the complete solution.