RFID proves itself daily as an efficiency tool for industrial uses. From tracking raw materials used in production to locating inventory, RFID technology can locate products in the pipeline and help prevent against theft and shrinkage. Increasingly, companies are embracing the radio frequency tags: According to IDC data, published early this year, the manufacturing industry spent $178 billion on industrial internet of things (IIot) in 2016, which is more than twice as much than the second largest vertical market, transportation, which spent $78 billion.
Late product delivery can be devastating to a manufacturer. Knowing where raw materials are and when they will arrive is crucial to a factory’s success. RFID tags can easily provide visibility into the supply chain. Because time is money, every day that a shipment is late can mean lost profit for manufacturers. In addition, sometimes late shipments can lead to spoilage concerns. Ensuring timely arrival of shipments in working or usable condition is mission critical.
Take SBB Cargo. The shipper transports 175,000 tons of goods a day throughout Switzerland. SBB rail cars take the freight from one station to another, and monitoring those movements can be a highly complex process. Mistakes are costly, so delays are avoided and space in the cars is a premium. As a result, SBB has not only installed RFID technology to identify the movements of each car whether loaded or empty, but it is also using GPS and sensors to track the location of and temperature within some of its refrigerated cars, as well as humidity and vibration level. SBB Cargo keeps the entire supplyline in the loop: Dispatchers and customers receive automatic alerts via e-mail or text message when each car arrives at a station or yard, and businesses are also notified. The alerts specify the order of the cars as well, so loading and unloading can be planned accordingly.
Using RFID in Asset Management
Automating tracking of returnable containers and other high-value assets lets manufacturers accurately track the location of critical parts during each stage of their work process, which prevents many management challenges from cropping up, including production delays, cancellations and cost over-runs. An RFID-enabled material tracking system lets companies track assets such as products on pallets or in drums automatically, providing real-time data on location, check-in/check-out times, shipping history, etc. RFID technology virtually eliminates human error. A simple counting error can have a tremendous impact on operations. Miss just one single asset and it may never again be accounted for, which is a large expense to the manufacturer. RFID tags are always “on,” counting and providing information as needed.
Proper tag selection, attachment and placement, portal placement and information workflows are crucial to understand what is happening in the supply chain. As the IIoT continues to connect factory and warehouse assets — the inventory, machinery, vehicles, workers and end products — they become sources of data for real-time analysis. Once connected, they offer insights that transform the warehouse from a cost center into a valuable, information-rich business differentiator.