The first patent for radio-frequency identification, better known as RFID systems, was filed in 1983. Even so, these powerful little tags are still underrated and on the upswing throughout the world economy. The global RFID market is on target to reach $40.5 billion in value by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of around 14.7%.
Is your manufacturing enterprise taking advantage of RFID systems yet? If not, here are 10 ways they can improve your productivity, accuracy, competitiveness and peace of mind.
1. Shipping and Receiving Products
When suppliers tag shipments of materials or components at the source, it makes it easier for every industrial partner down the line to confirm accuracy and receive products much faster.
Used in conjunction with shipping and receiving, RFID tags give enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems superior supply chain visibility. They also provide the ability to process and sort incoming freight extremely quickly with a minimum number of touches.
2. Staging the Facility
Wide-area RFID is an exciting application of core technology that makes facility staging a breeze. Traditional RFID tags require products to pass under a scanner or through an aperture, which creates a physical and process bottleneck.
Passive RFID, on the other hand, extends the tracking and location awareness to a larger area. With scanners mounted overhead on ceiling tiles or elsewhere, manufacturers and distributors can stage their facility for perfect product and material flow. Any out-of-place equipment or components are easy to spot and correct.
3. Synchronizing Production Flow
Radio-frequency identification can provide a top-down view of the manufacturing environment, including each piece of equipment and its larger role in the workflow.
Combined with the data mobility benefits of the IoT, RFID tags affixed to pallets, totes and employee badges help managers and ERPs “see” each process and work-in-progress. They can determine how it’s proceeding alongside the others.
With this information in hand, production managers and enterprise software can better time each process and synchronize it with the others. This eliminates bottlenecks and unproductive downtime brought on by poor timing.
4. Controlling Dock Door Traffic
OSHA maintains a set of safety requirements for dock doors, including installing barriers for those situated 48 inches or more above the ground. Avoiding slips and falls are just one source of frustration when it comes to dock areas, however. RFID enters the picture by providing a superior access control system.
By situating scanners at each dock, manufacturers can track which individuals and vehicles access trailers throughout the day and flag unwanted traffic. Dock door discrimination RFID systems can also sound the alarm when employees attempt to load incomplete or inaccurate shipments onto a trailer.
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5. Weeding Out Counterfeit Parts
Assembling automobiles, airplanes, military gear, electronics and other complex products requires a confluence of many high-value components. This poses multiple potential issues, one of which involves the $509 billion problem of counterfeit parts. They represent a 3.3% loss for the global economy.
Individual RFID tagging for components helps manufacturers quickly verify on the production line that each part added to a chassis or workpiece is authentic. Additionally, RFID tags provide a more robust chain of custody to help verify shipment origin and authenticity.
6. Tracking Assets
Asset tracking is one of the most popular applications for RFID tags. The modern manufacturing environment plays host to forklifts, order pickers, pallet trucks, conveyors, bins and totes, production equipment, and other fixed and mobile infrastructure.
Applying RFID tags to these assets gives facility operators important information about their location and last usage. These are important insights for keeping up with maintenance cycles, preventing equipment from entering restricted areas and ensuring mission-critical equipment can be tracked down at a moment’s notice.
7. Automating Nonconforming Materials (NCM) Identification
Receiving complete orders, with the right materials or components, is vital. RFID tags allow manufacturers to automate the process of identifying and then returning, scrapping or reworking nonconforming materials before they compromise product quality.
Automated NCM identification does away with labels, barcodes and even handwritten notes that might contain errors and throw a wrench in the manufacturing and compliance processes.
8. Improving Facility Safety
Manufacturers can use RFID tags to improve facility safety in a few key ways. Some of these include:
- Setting up and policing temporary work areas through perimeter control
- Granting temporary work or visitor permits based on role, seniority and proximity
- Maintaining safe distances between equipment and workers, and braking vehicles or halting machines when employees get too close
Whether during daily operations or an emergency, knowing the relative locations of all assets and personnel goes a long way in keeping a facility safe.
9. Eliminating Inventory Cycle Counts
Performing inventory cycle counts can be a major time sink as well as an additional source of error for manufacturers and the suppliers they rely on. With RFID systems, manufacturers can engage in item-level inventory counts on an ongoing basis.
One study showed a potential 27% improvement in inventory accuracy following the installation of an RFID system. Higher-accuracy cycle counts, hands-off counting, faster inventory times and the ability to perform more frequent counts are all benefits of RFID for inventory management.
10. Monitoring Shipments in Progress
RFID can be indispensable for manufacturers in tracking incoming materials or outgoing product shipments.
RFID tags make it easy for freight operators to gather and transmit custody and location data at each leg of the journey. More importantly, they allow this information to be sent to stakeholders in real-time to keep each party on the same page. They also help stage timely interventions if outside conditions are creating delays or errors in the supply chain.
Getting the Most Out of RFID Systems
Manufacturers consistently find new ways to boost efficiency and maintain higher profit margins using RFID systems. Manufacturing is getting more competitive by the day, but sometimes the smallest solutions provide some of the most compelling results.