12
Wed, Jun
4 New Articles

RFID: Payback for Manufacturers, Part 2

Enterprise Resource Planning / Financial
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

RFID can do some things better than existing barcode data capture, and it can do other things that barcodes could never do. Nevertheless, it is a foregone conclusion that barcoding and RFID complement each other and that they will coexist for a very long time.

This is good news for manufacturers with business processes that are supported by barcoding. Whatever may come of Wal-Mart-type mandates, Electronic Product Codes and Global Data Synchronization, RFID tags will remain--in some respects--much like an electronic barcode. Thus, companies with successful barcode utilization in place can also utilize RFID data by passing the data through existing pathways into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.. This leverages the existing technology infrastructure, while adding operational and economic benefits that are unique to RFID.

In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the benefits of employing RFID to improve an existing barcode-supported process. We'll do more of that in a moment, but first let's consider the question of "RFID readiness."

Qualifying Yourself for RFID

Are you a good candidate for RFID right now? Clearly, you don't have to be a current Wal-Mart or DoD supplier to take advantage of the opportunities that RFID brings to the table. But how close are you to achieving significant performance improvements from integrating RFID data? Most manufacturing companies can identify with one or more of these "qualifying" questions:

  • Do you have a legacy Automatic Data Capture (ADC) barcode system in place that would need to coexist with an RFID system?
  • Do you have an ADC system in place today in which the barcode label does not work very well because of the environment (dirty, poor lighting, etc.)?
  • Do the assets or items that you manufacture or distribute have a high underlying value?
  • Do you employ reusable containers, totes, pallets, etc. in your current processes?

...and, of course...

  • If not now, do you expect you will need to satisfy a customer's RFID mandate within the next three to five years?

If you do have comprehensive ERP-integrated barcode data capture today, a "yes" to any of these questions means you are well-positioned to utilize RFID data for business process improvements. If you have standalone barcode capability or if only a few barcode transactions are integrated to your ERP, you can still get some benefit out of RFID, but the cost and time required for an integration project will impact your ROI expectations. Alternatively, you could compare the value of acquiring a fully ERP-integrated ADC solution that can process both barcode and RFID transaction data.

Choosing Your RFID Target

There are many ways to blend the benefits of barcoding with the strengths of RFID technology in the manufacturing process. In our earlier example, RFID eliminated the need to track down variances between production reporting and finished goods. Here are four more in-plant RFID scenarios that solve problems and improve operating efficiency:

Picking for Shop Orders

Barcoding and RFID can work seamlessly together where materials to be staged on the shop floor for process or assembly are picked to a pallet, a cart, a tote, or a bin. To prepare for the changeover, reusable RFID "license plate" tags are applied to the containers, and the material handler is supplied with a portable handheld device that can read both barcodes and RFID tags. The picker starts the process by acknowledging the shop order that he is working on. Following the pick slip (or following directions from the device screen, in the case of a paperless pick application), the picker is directed around the warehouse to pick the components required to fill a shop order. As each component is picked, he then reads the RFID tag on the container. In doing so, the RFID tag is automatically associated with the shop order, the item number, the lot number, and the quantity for all components in the container.

Tracking Materials on the Shop Floor

Once components are being picked to RFID-tagged containers, it becomes easier to track them as material is moved from the warehouse to a location on the shop floor. Moving the containers through a portal (or reading the tags with a handheld device) maintains visibility of each RFID container, along with current information on its contents. A tag-bearing container for work-in-process (WIP) can solve a difficult problem that manufacturers have regarding WIP visibility. It is not uncommon for someone to have to go out on the shop floor just to locate the material. This is time-consuming and can become very expensive if the lack of visibility causes a production line to be idled while waiting for the material.

Identifying Returnable Containers

Some companies ship their products to their customers in reusable containers or racks. With RFID tags applied to each container, not only can you track the container internally, but you can also track it as it is shipped out the door, associating the data to the ERP customer transaction. You can track how many containers went to each customer and when (or if) the customer returned them.

When a container comes back empty, RFID data is captured by an RFID "portal" as the container passes through the receiving doors. This transaction can be set up to trigger follow-on procedures. The receiver may be directed to take the container to a cleaning and prep area, while a scheduler may be notified that returned containers are available for production planning.

Compare the above scenario to the common practice in which containers are returned and then allowed to sit in a yard or on a receiving dock indefinitely, waiting for someone to process the container back into the cycle. Manufacturers are likely buying many more containers than they actually need, yet there may still be periodic shortages of containers that are ready for reuse. If customers keep containers longer than they should, automatic notification can be sent out to remind them how many containers are outstanding.

And there are still more benefits: RFID tags can also automate life-cycle tracking and replenishment. The lifespan of a container may be based on how many times it was used, and a read/write tag on the container can log how many times it has been shipped, along with the most recent ship or return date.

Preventive Maintenance

When a machine breaks down during a production run, it is just as bad as running short of components for production. The delay can cascade through to shipping, causing customer-critical promise dates to be missed. In some cases, the production must be moved to another machine, adding tear-down and setup costs. Periodic preventive maintenance is usually scheduled, but sometimes a machine is put into service for a production run even though the scheduled maintenance may not have occurred.

If each machine is identified with a "fail-safe" RFID asset tag and the tag is encoded with data on the most-recent and next-required service, an operator or supervisor can use a handheld RFID reader to check the maintenance status of the machine before setting it up for production. If there is no centralized plant maintenance database application in use, the maintenance department could also do periodic checks of the machine tags to ensure that each machine is being maintained on schedule.

Pick the Best Strategy

Here is a key to success in extending data capture functionality to include RFID in your manufacturing environment: Rethink the "technology project" approach to automatic data capture. For decades, ADC has been a build-to-suit proposition. Over time, it has gotten somewhat easier, as more powerful software toolsets automate the development process. But it is long past the time for ADC for manufacturing to be deployable much the same as it is in retail: as a comprehensive, plug-and-play extension to the ERP application. Such products do exist, and now RFID gives you an excellent reason to seek them out. Once you have a barcode solution in place that is integrated to your ERP business logic and database, adding RFID to the mix is better, faster, and cheaper.

Anthony Etzel is Vice President of Data Capture Solutions at RTTX: RealTime Technologies, Inc. He has been designing and deploying automatic data capture solutions in manufacturing for over 20 years.

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: