RFID for Work in Process (WIP) – Empowering people to make complex business decisions.

traceability_1From the concrete of the production floor to the carpet in the executive offices, RFID technology provides actionable data which allows organizations to make complex business decisions. Making decisions based on actual data opposed to “best guess” data…I don’t even need to explain that. The trick is collecting that data and making it available for the organization. That is where RFID comes into play.

Work in Process is one of many applications within a plant in which RFID improves overall process efficiency. It helps to enable flexible manufacturing, tracks the work process, and helps to maintain regulatory compliance. Simply put, RFID technology is responsible for collecting the data, but it is up to the humans to use the data.

What is the data that is being recorded and collected?

  • Build Data: What are we trying to build? (for flexible MFG)
  • Process Data: How well did we build it? (Error Proofing or Poka Yoke)
  • Lineage Data: Where did the parts come from? (Tracking sub-assemblies and parts to their origin)

How does this data benefit the manufacturing organization?

Build Data:  Consider a company who is manufacturing seats for an automobile. The number of options on seats today is mind boggling. A few options include: Heaters, automated controls, weight sensors, specialized foam, specialized covers, etc.  The problem is they all look the same to the human eye. When tagged with an RFID tag all that data is written to the memory in the beginning of the process and then the data is read at every work station along the line to identify exactly what needs to be done based on what the finished product is going to be. In the old days, the operator at each station would have to read through a couple reams of paper to determine what needs to be completed. Now an automatic data transfer informs the operator what needs to be completed.

Process Data: At the same seat manufacturer, let’s say there are twenty stations (processes) that a seat must go through in order to be completed. Now, let’s say there was an error installing the heating mechanism in station three. The seat then proceeds through the remaining seventeen stations getting many other things added to it along the way. Then, prior to shipping, it goes through final inspection and the heater problem is identified. Now, that final seat needs to be either scrapped or needs to go back through the rework line. That’s what used to happen in the old days. Nowadays there are error checks in between each station that quickly identify problems immediately opposed to waiting until the end of the line resulting in lost labor and time. As the seat moves from station three to four the error check occurs and either a go or no-go is written to the tag. If the reader in station four reads a no-go off the tag the operator is notified immediately and the production error can be corrected immediately without having to tear the seat apart to fix the problem. Additionally, the entire production process is written to the tag along the way and at the end of the line the information is uploaded to a database.  The tag can then be erased and written to all over again.

Let’s say the seat manufacturer receives a special order that has to be run ASAP. All twenty seats currently on the line need to be removed to make way for the special order. After the special order is completed it’s now time to put the seats back in their respective stations. RFID takes the guess work out of that process because now they can just read the RFID tag and it will tell them the exact station it belongs in.

Lineage Data:  All those seat variations mean many different components coming from many different suppliers. RFID is used to track those parts back to their origin in case of recall or repetitive part failure. Now instead of bringing the entire assembly back and scrapping the seat they can identify the faulty component, replace it, and hold their suppliers accountable to their quality promise.

Ultimately, from the concrete to the carpet, RFID helps manufacturing organizations make high quality products, eliminate un-planned down time, and improve overall efficiency. By allowing operators and executives to make decisions based on actual data, RFID is helping drive manufacturing organizations to the next level.

For more information on RFID solutions visit balluff.us/rfid.

How to Make Plant-based Assets Smarter


traceability…add RFID

Pallets, bins, shipping containers, machine tools, hand tools, calibration equipment, neumatic and hydraulic cylinders, etc, etc, etc can all be given some level of intelligence which would make life easier within the plant. Plant-based assets are truly assets because they make our job easier or they allow us to be more efficient. When workers are efficient they are more productive.

Really it all comes down to the questions that we need answered. Here are a few that I have run into in a plant:
Where are all of my pallets and shipping containers?
How much longer can I use this machine tool before the tolerances are out of range?
Has this gauge been calibrated? when? by whom? what are the parameters?
I need to re-order this part or order spare parts and the manufacturer information has been worn off. What is the serial number, when was this part manufactured, what is the location of this asset within the plant?

Ultimately, if your assets can answer a few questions your life becomes a little less complex. All of the answers are simply written to the RFID tag and when you have a question you can read the information from the tag with an RFID reader, sometimes called an interrogator for obvious reasons. It’s that simple.

For more information on RFID as a solution visit our website at www.balluff.us/rfid

RFID – Keep it Simple!

traceabilityMost of us drive an automobile and use a PC daily. However, very few of us could accurately describe the intricate details of how each of those work. They help us get to work and help us do our work. There is not a need for us to know and understand the algorithm that allows us to compose and save an excel spread sheet. As well, there is not much use in knowing the coefficient of friction when using snow tires compared to standard tires. While those factors play a major role in the tools we use every day, we do not necessarily need to be an expert or scientist to reap the benefits.

Much like a car or PC, RFID systems enable us to be more efficient and productive. Specifically, RFID systems in manufacturing enable full visibility into the process. RFID technology provides actionable data to an organization. Having access to actionable data allows an organization to make critical business decisions with a great degree of confidence. Essentially, it takes the guess work out of the process.

So, how does it work? Very simply, a reader reads the information that has been written to the memory of a tag. Yes, it is that simple.

Check out this webex sponsored by SME. This is a very basic introduction to RFID and how it is used in manufacturing.

Asset Tracking – Top 10

The goal of plant-based asset tracking is to reduce non-productive time and asset losses, while increasing overall productivity and utilization by accurately tracking assets. Bar code and RFID technologies track changes to an asset’s location, condition, conformity status, and availability.

Balluff has been in this business for over 25 years. Based on that experience, we have compiled the top 10 list of commonly tracked plant-based assets:

1. Dunnage containers
2. Machine tools
3. Plant-floor Equipment
4. Stamping dies
5. Torque Wrenches
6. Plastic Molds
7. Storage tanks and vessels
8. IT equipment
9. Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)
10. Modular automation sub-systems

If you are looking to gain tighter control of your assets, visit www.balluff.us



Tracking low-cost assets with RFID tags…Is it worth it?

First, a lesson in Lexicography

Lexi-what!? Don’t be alarmed. This blog is not as boring as it sounds, especially if you are involved in manufacturing. Lexicography is the art of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries. Sounds like a ton of fun, but let’s move quickly to the point to prevent nausea or inducing sleep. Value, according to dictionary.com when used as a noun, is defined as relative worth, merit, or importance. Notice, the lexicographer mentions nothing about cost.

Tracking valuable assets using RFID within the walls of a plant has become common practice for many organizations. Tracking fork trucks, specialized equipment, machinery and other high cost items are a no-brainer. However, experienced users of RFID technology have realized that it is important to know the location of a high cost asset, but it is paramount to know the location of a high value item.

Defining the VALUE of assets (tools, measurement and calibration devices, specialized machines etc.) can be a tricky game. Conversely, it is not difficult to record the cost of an asset on a balance sheet. A tool which has a cost of $50 doesn’t have a VALUE of $50.

Do you really know what your assets are worth? Is your $50 tool worth hundreds, thousands, or even millions? How is that possible? This is fairly straight forward. If that tool is an integral part in the operation of the manufacturing line then every minute that tool is “missing” is a minute of downtime. How much does a minute of downtime cost your company? How much does an hour of downtime cost your company? Does this tool help your final product conform to standards? What is the cost of nonconformance? What are the financial implications of a product recall? These questions need to be addressed when determining whether or not you should track your assets.

Continue reading “Tracking low-cost assets with RFID tags…Is it worth it?”

UHF RFID, One Size Fits All! – Really?

With the proliferation of UHF (ultra-high frequency) based RFID in the commercial and consumer markets, UHF has been seen as the mainstay now for many low-cost, long-range RFID applications. And in recent years with the desire for longer range application flexibility in the industrial sector, naturally users want to gravitate toward technologies and products with a proven track record. But can you really take the same products developed and used for the commercial and consumer logistics markets and apply them reliably to industrial applications like asset tracking, EKanban, general manufacturing or logistics?
Continue reading “UHF RFID, One Size Fits All! – Really?”