While RFID technology has been available for almost seventy years, the last decade has seen widespread acceptance, specifically in automated manufacturing. Deployed for common applications like automatic data transfer in machining operations, quality control in production, logistics traceability and inventory control, RFID has played a major role in the evolution of data collection and handling. With this evolution has come massive amounts of data that can ultimately hold the key to process improvement, quality assurance and regulatory compliance. However, the challenge many organizations face today is how to turn all that data into actionable data.
Prominent industry buzzwords like Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) once seemed like distant concepts conjured up by a marketing team far away from the actual plant floor, but those buzzwords are the result of manufacturing organizations around the globe identifying the need for better visibility into their operations. Automation hardware and the infrastructure that supports it has advanced rapidly due to this request, but software that turns raw data into actionable data is still very much in demand. This software needs to provide interactive feedback in the form of reporting, dashboards, and real time indicators.
The response to the demand will bring vendors from other industries and start-ups, while a handful of familiar players in automation will step up to the challenge. Competition keeps us all on our toes, but the key to filling the software gap in the plant is partnering with a vendor who understands the needs on the plant floor. So, how do you separate the pretenders from the contenders? I compiled a check list to help.
Does the prospective vendor have:
- A firm understanding that down time and scrap need to be reduced or eliminated?
- A core competency in automation for the plant floor?
- Smart hardware devices like RFID and condition monitoring sensors?
- A system solution that can collect, analyze, and transport data from the device to the cloud?
- A user-friendly interface that allows interaction with mobile devices like tablets and phones?
- The capability to provide customized reports to meet the needs of your organization?
- A great industry reputation for quality and dependability?
- A chain of support for pre-sales, installation, and post-sales support?
- Examples of successful system deployments?
- The willingness to develop or modify current devices to address your specific needs?
If you can check the box for all of these, it is a safe bet you are in good hands. Otherwise, you’re rolling the dice.