Written by, Robert Freeman, President of Cedar Bay North America
Customers demand customization
Customers today expect not only the things that they want right now, but also something personalized to them. Just offering multiple product models or configurations isn’t enough to satisfy customers anymore. Globally, an “individualistic culture” has taken hold. Just look at the automotive industry where every car is sold with a huge number of options making few, if any, identical cars on the road. We pride ourselves on being unique and different. We want every aspect of our lives to represent who we are as individuals. However, many manufacturers are finding it difficult to meet that expectation. Why? Because the efficiency demands placed on manufacturers during the First, Second and even Third Industrial Revolutions (less than 30 years ago) pale in comparison to what manufacturers are facing right now.
The need for manufacturers to adapt
This requirement for flexibility means factories need to transfer from traditional production lines, to ‘Technology Lines’ instead. These lines are far more automated, robot transport platforms, which can take material to whichever process site, or workstation that is required next. In the automotive world this might vary for the different vehicles in production at any one time based on the desired customization. We are also seeing a rise in these technology lines after the Covid-19 outbreak in food production. For instance, Tyson Foods in America recently introduced a totally automated production line, in response to the pandemic.
Why turn to RFID?
Mass diversification introduces many risks for manufacturers. For instance, there’s the potential that the efficiencies of mass production, the very efficiencies that made items like cars affordable and customizable in the first place, way back to the days of Henry Ford, could be lost. Then there’s the possibility that bending to customers’ ever-changing demands; implementing flexible, endlessly adaptable production and supply chain systems, might impact price and productivity advantages created by the unyielding, uniform production lines that have been in place for centuries.
RFID helps to provide an economical way to automate multiple logistic and internal workflows. These solutions can help reinvent the production line. As well as, larger-scale supply chain operations by becoming the basis of the digitalization that defines the Fourth Industrial Revolution. By requiring suppliers to mark raw materials with RFID tags, in addition to the standard barcode, manufacturers can take back control of their production processes, even as they program more individualized orders into assembly-line systems in highly automated factories.
For example, the operational oversight provided by overhead systems constantly tracking and tracing RFID tags will give manufacturers the confidence that the right parts are being picked for each personalized order and delivered to the production line at precisely the right time (key to Just in Time manufacturing).
Advantages of turning to RFID
RFID tags possess several key advantages over previous labeling technologies. These advantages make them ideal for more automated Industry 4.0 supply chain processes:
- RFID tags tend to be more accurately identified than barcodes, especially from a distance. They can also be extremely durable.
- RFID does not require line-of-sight or a light source for tags to be read. This is a dramatic advantage over previous technologies, such as barcodes. A reader can discover what’s in a box’s entire contents, without opening it. A reader can even pinpoint a specific item in an area containing hundreds of diverse components. A vehicle being built can be digitally tracked during its production process, enabling workers to make the right decisions by understanding exactly, in real time, its history and next requirements.
- RFID tagging can also operate across large areas. This can help to integrate factory zones into a seamless IoT system that transmits data, to and from back-end systems, to accurately track the location of items. For example, a delivery’s contents can be automatically identified without human intervention. Any item within the read range, inside or outside the four walls, can be located, retrieved and delivered where it needs to be. This considerably reduces lost and miscategorized items.
We can help you leverage the advantages that RFID can bring to your business. We have years of experience of delivering integration of RFID technology and can help you explore the opportunities that are available. If you’re interested in learning more about RFID, and what it can do for you, please get in touch with our expert team via the contact us button today.
My focus is on delivering successful IFS ERP and Automated Data Collection solutions to our customers. I am confident in applying relevant industry trends and best practices to any of our projects.