Companies should seriously look at the manufacturing area as one of the first areas on their adoption path of AutoID technology. It may not be the ‘glamorous vision’ of tagging at the item level and having store shelf readers, but it provides a way for companies to obtain real benefits in a controlled, closed loop system in the short-term, while at the same time gaining experience with the technology. This experience will better prepare companies for additional deployments of the new technology across the broader value chain when tag and reader prices fall. Below are some examples of how RFID can impact different areas in the manufacturing process.
For applications used in the manufacturing area, RFID can provide the enabling data at a much greater level of accuracy, timeliness and detail than other alternatives. For example, RFID may close the link between a manufacturer's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). Today, the MES application does not have easy access to detailed information; and therefore, the ERP has no idea of what is really happening on the shop floor (e. g. subcomponents not being where they were expected, trained people not showing up when they should and machines going down). RFID can provide the MES with the accurate, timely and detailed information it requires to operate effectively. When the information is available to the MES and ERP applications, they can adjust accordingly, both locally in the factory and centrally on the ERP, enabling the most efficient of resources.
RFID supports the ‘pull model’ of production (Kan-Ban) by providing detailed, accurate information on usage to remotely drive MRP through the value chain, including work-in-process, warehouse and third party manufacturing. Many companies are pursuing lean manufacturing, Kaizen and Siz Sigma manufacturing strategies. All of these quality control methods require real-time data collection needs to occur along with the ability to track the definite, time-dependent path of erroneous product. Industrial-strength RFID applications have proven that it is possible to collect information with a greater degree of precision than any previous generation of technology.
Government regulations increasingly place the burden of a product recall on not only the final manufacturer but on all suppliers as well. In this situation, a company needs to know the source of its materials and the destination of its products.
RFID technology can be used to enable genealogy tracking by recording relevant information such as product ID, time stamp, physical characteristics, lot number and disposition at each step in the manufacturing process. The technology enables the tracking of specific raw material components and action taken during every step of the manufacturing process. The technology enables the tracking of specific raw material components and action taken during every step of the manufacturing process. Sensor functionality could be added to track characteristics through distribution to the point of purchase. Encoded certificate of analysis and sensor technology can be used to verify that individual products were made with specification, and then signal an alert if they go out of tolerance.