Challenging Project Management
For a manufacturer of commercial retail furniture, project management was challenging. In addition to manufacturing modular and stand-alone furniture, the manufacturer also produces décor and coordinates the assembly and on-site installation of every order/project.
An order included everything from furniture to fasteners and with multiple projects in process at any given time, assembling all the moving parts of a project accurately was time consuming and often resulted in a lot of time spent “hunting down” components needed to complete an order.
Errors Were Costly
Even with the best of intentions, order fulfillment was a manual process and frequently filled with errors. Often errors weren’t uncovered until the middle of the installation. These errors put the project timeline in jeopardy and often required disrupting manufacturing to expedite the production of lost or misplaced items. In addition, the manufacturer incurred overnight shipping charges in an effort to meet installation promise dates.
RFID Provides a Solution
Ensuring order accuracy and on-time project installation were the goals for this manufacturer. Eliminating manual processes was key. A closed-loop RFID system provided the answer.
Closed-loop RFID simply refers to an RFID system that is self-contained within a location or company and offers the designer of the system complete control to customize the system to meet their unique needs. Conversely, open-loop systems are open to multiple companies and are commonly used for tracking the movement of items through the supply chain. Often open-loop systems are compliance driven.
Manufacturing and Project Assembly Using Handheld RFID
Tracking each component for a given job was the first step. At the end of production an RFID label is printed and put on every component except screws, fasteners and the like, which are barcoded. Once labeled, the component is associated with the correct job, enabling easy tracking of components as they move through the process. Barcoded items are put in an RFID labeled tote, and associated with the job also.
Tagit Solutions software was used to integrate the RFID system with the manufacturer’s ERP system, allowing for the integration of data collected.
From production, components are put in a staging area; a specific and unique area is assigned for each job. Handheld RFID readers are used to track the movement from production to staging and any stop in between. The readers are also used for easily finding the location of an item if need be.
UHF EPC Gen 2 RFID Tags
With no real environmental challenges or special label requirements, a UHF EPC Gen 2 stock label is being used. Ultra-High Frequency or UHF tags employ passive technology. Passive tags do not have their own power source, but uses the reader for their source of power.
Their relative low-cost, make UHF tags a staple in manufacturing environments and emphasize the point that RFID can be effective without being custom or costly.
Order Shipment Using Fixed-Mount RFID
At each dock door, a fixed-mount reader with 4 antennas reads each job as it is loaded for shipment, verifying the following:
- Is anything missing?
- Is anything on the shipment that shouldn’t be?
This second check, validating the accuracy of the order, has reduced shipment errors to virtually zero.
Test to Maximize Results
Even with all aspects of the project carefully planned, testing is always recommended with any RFID project. To test the system, a fixed mount reader was installed at one of the dock doors, which ran alongside the current process. Putting theory into practice allowed the manufacturer to make adjustments, ensuring optimum results from the system.
For this manufacturer, RFID was the right choice because it provided an automated system to track and manage projects from start to finish, provided the following benefits throughout the organization;
- Increased order accuracy
- Reduced time spent looking for lost or misplaced items
- Reduced disruptions in manufacturing to replace lost or misplaced items
- Reduced rush shipping charges
- Increased on-time project completion
What are your manufacturing challenges?