Even though IoT based industrial automation is still in the works, manufacturing technologies have advanced to such a level that they have taken over the most repetitive tasks from human operators. A prime example is inventory management and component-level tracking system.
Manufacturers would have nothing to gain by putting their manual workforce to deal with such tasks as abundant tracking technologies are now available in the market. In addition, the use of automated tracking systems can serve a greater purpose. The massive amount of data captured by such systems can be integrated within a larger system and used to optimize line performance, increase throughput, and identify defects.
The biggest problem with barcode or sticker based systems is the need to scan them. Even though the process takes place via a laser, the portability factor is still very low. This makes such a system expendable in larger manufacturing industries and environments.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) has excelled in this aspect. These systems make use of radio waves to collect accurate and real-time data.
A typical RFID system has three parts:
- RF Unit
In an RFID based system, each product/item is fitted with a RFID tag. The tag acts as a radio transmitter and has an antenna and tiny battery to support its operations, all enclosed within a thin sheet of plastic. The RF reader sends out RF waves, which are received by the RF tag, which in turn sends out info back to the reader. This information is then relayed to the RF unit for further processing.
RFID has made its way into a wide variety of commercial and industrial sectors such as supply chain, inventory management, product logging, etc. The prime reasons for its adoption is the greater portability and accuracy of such a system which greatly speeds up the entire inventory management process.
Inventory Control & RFID
Effective inventory management is highly dependent on the integration of collected data within a larger system. The data needs to be processed and analyzed so that future requirements can be predicted beforehand. Conventional tracking systems require frequent manual interventions, which is extremely time consuming and resource-expensive. The use of RFID however can greatly boost performance.Inventory monitoring
Systems are usually replenishment-based, meaning that restocking procedures are issued once inventory falls below a certain value. RFID tagged systems are quick as they require no intervention. Monitoring takes place automatically and simultaneously. The real-time information results in effective monitoring and quicker reorder of supplies, saving a manufacturer’s time in case of high demands.Lead-time Reduction
Conventional systems are limited by their design. RFID systems provide total visibility of the product throughout the supply chain as tags can be read remotely. This can help on-site engineers make early decisions before interrupting in the supply. As a result, the lead-time for arrival of an order is reduced, something extremely beneficial for industries such as pharmaceutical ones.
Finally, RFID based systems can bring a manufacturing industry a step closer to attaining “smartness”. RFID systems can be integrated within SCADA systems, which can then be used to carry out real-time monitoring and automation. The extended remote monitoring offered by RFID tags would give engineers complete control over the movement of products within the assembly line, allowing them to write safety routines based on the tracking area, quantity, rate of movement, and so on.
Interested in learning more about how RFID can improve your operations?
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