Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is experiencing an unprecedented growth. With increased standards, lower costs, improved reliability and greater adoption rates, RFID technology is being sought after by various business sectors for bringing greater efficiency, accuracy, productivity, and connectivity in their business processes.
The manufacturing industry has been using RFID technology for quite some time now. Most manufacturers are aware of the benefits that RFID brings to the supply chain, but they often overlook the benefits that RFID technology can provide in the actual manufacturing processes.
Automotive manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, textile and clothing manufacturers, machinery and spare parts manufacturers, all can benefit from integrating RFID in their manufacturing processes as well as other business processes.
Let’s look at some of the ways in which RFID is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry.
RFID in Production
On the actual factory floor where production is taking place, RFID can be immensely helpful. Many a times production involve processes in harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperature, humidity, abrasion, presence of chemicals or other fluids; RFID systems that can withstand extreme environmental conditions can come in handy to control and monitor operations and thus increase the efficiency of the manufacturing process. RFID tags can store lots of information; this information can be used to optimize production processes. In assembly line productions, such as automotive manufacturing, RFID can aid in making manufacturing process more flexible. Additionally, RFID technology can be leveraged to monitor equipment within the facility by tagging machines, conveyors, trucks, or forklifts. Also, the raw material required for production can be tagged using RFID. This will allow to monitor real-time movements of raw materials which in turn can lead to efficient production planning.
RFID in the Supply Chain
The use of RFID technology in the supply chain can help in improving the accuracy, efficiency, and reliability across manufacturing, distribution and transportation. RFID allows real-time visibility of material and assets needed to keep the manufacturing process moving with clock work like efficiency. RFID reduces shipping errors, improves security, validates raw materials and finished goods, and offers increased visibility of goods within a supply chain.
RFID in Inventory Management
Accuracy of inventory is paramount in any manufacturing plant. RFID technology can help improve inventory management. RFID’s ability to track products and equipment can help in regulating the inventory of a factory, allowing users to better predict their needs with real-time data on raw material, equipment, or supply demands. RFID actually reduces human intervention and thus eliminates errors in inventory management. Also, equipment and tool location inventories integrated with RFID technology can help improve the production scheduling or eliminate the need of reordering of materials thought to be lost. RFID also aids in limiting shrinkage or wastage of resources.
Examples of the Applications of RFID Technology in the Real World
A microcomputer assembly company utilized RFID technology for inventory control and traceability of the product; reduction in the costs of substituting a component, and reduction in lead-time were the main benefits achieved by this company.
General Motors (GM) has attached RFID tags directly to the cylinder heads and engine blocks to keep track of every single manufacturing process the engine block or cylinder head undergoes so that any error during manufacturing is known immediately.
Kabel Premium Pulp & Paper has integrated an RFID-based identification solution in its manufacturing process which enables factory workers at Kabel to continuously monitor and track the current production step being processed by a given paper batch.
Some semiconductor manufacturing companies are utilizing RFID in their clean rooms to gain control, enhance quality and operator efficiency, and increase equipment use.
RFID technology has allowed manufacturing plants to work more effortlessly while increasing production and keeping costs down. As RFID technology will continue to evolve, some unheard of new solutions will emerge for the manufacturing industry.
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