German manufacturer Rittal deployed durable, high-temperature RFID tags in its paint shop operations to track work-in-process (WIP) and automate stock tracking and re-ordering.
Rittal manufactures switch cabinets, air conditioning systems, and server and network cabinets. The lack of WIP visibility into its painting processes led to manual stock checking and sub-optimal employment of its resources. Material purchases were based on historical estimates rather than real-time usage, and the company lacked information on temporary material stock. The company wanted 100% WIP visibility, along with automated material tracking. Rittal also wanted to ability to generate purchase orders based on real-time data, while eliminating manual processes associated with stock checking and inventory management.
It was clear from the start that RFID would be Rittal's first choice for achieving its operational goals, but it needed transponders that could withstand the high temperatures and chemicals utilized in its production processes. RFID would provide a more robust solution than barcode labels (which would not withstand its manufacturing processes) without requiring line of sight reading.
The company turned to IdentPro, the German RFID/RTLS integrator and solution provider with experience in deploying the technology in challenging environments. IdentPro provided a complete software solution, SAP integration, and rugged RFID tags from Xerafy. "Rittal chose IdentPro because IdentPro would deliver a complete solution, including the required control software and integration with our SAP systems, rather than selling just the RFID components," said Denise-Anabel Gomolla, Works Management, Rittal.
"RFID readings were 100% from the first day." For the rugged tags, IdentPro turned to Xerafy. Xerafy has an unparalleled range of tags for the type of unique and specialized requirements present at Rittal. The Xerafy Micro X-II tag for on-metal applications was the perfect fit for Rittal's solution. The tags are designed for exposure to extreme heat and repeated exposure to caustic fluids. Prior to RFID, work-in-process was not tracked down to the single item. Raw material purchase orders were based on historical data rather than actual need. Stock visibility was also limited. The target of the project was to install an automated feedback system for the painting process that would allow for precise data on WIP, and subsequently provide real-time data for need-based material purchasing.
An additional benefit of the RFID system would be improved stock transparency. Rittal has deployed Xerafy Micro X-II tags at one of its facilities, along with IdentPro identMXreaders with integrated antennas, the IdentPro RFID Control Unit (which serves as the middleware), and the IdentPro RFID Server for business logic and SAP interface functions.
All of the readers are connected via Ethernet with the RFID Control Unit IdentIQ, which consolidates the data and forwards it to the RFID server. The server comprises a Web-based front end for managing and monitoring the RFID readers, business logic for monitoring dialogues, and the interface to Rittal's SAP system.
The tags are mounted on product hangers and married to the production order number of each product via a barcode scan. As the hangers pass through 22 RFID read points on the nearly 10-kilometer-long production line, the data is forwarded to SAP. This integration automatically generates purchase orders based on real-time production data, as well as updating interim stock and product location data.
The Xerafy tags are able to withstand the 200°C process temperatures, and have provided 100% read rates. Rittal has been able to optimize materials planning as a result of the RFID deployment, which has saved time and reduced costs. Using a reader with an integrated antenna and power-over-Ethernet kept installation costs and effort to a minimum, and the system is maintenance free — both factors that significantly reduced the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the system for Rittal. The company now plans to implement the solution at additional plants.
"We love Xerafy's range of special metal tags, which never let us down in any of our projects," said Michael Wack, CEO, IdentPro. "Especially for demanding production environments, the extended heat resistance and extra robustness of their tags come in handy. We have also experienced a very good size/performance ratio with tags from Xerafy."
Solution Overview & Benefits
Application: Paint shop operations WIP tracking
Xerafy tags: Micro X-II
Excellent RFID readability
Real-time accurate production overview
Improved manufacturing planning
Greater inventory control
Increased staff productivity
Automated material tracking
More accurate purchase orders