Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is experiencing an unprecedented growth. With increased standards, lower costs, improved reliability and greater adoption rates, RFID technology is being sought after by various business sectors for bringing greater efficiency, accuracy, productivity, and connectivity in their business processes. The manufacturing industry has been using RFID technology for quite some time now.
Most manufacturers are aware of the benefits that RFID brings to the supply chain, but they often overlook the benefits that RFID technology can provide in the actual manufacturing processes. Automotive manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, textile and clothing manufacturers, machinery and spare parts manufacturers, all can benefit from integrating RFID in their manufacturing processes as well as other business processes. Let's look at some of the ways in which RFID is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry.
On the actual factory floor where production is taking place, RFID can be immensely helpful. Many a times production involve processes in harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperature, humidity, abrasion, presence of chemicals or other fluids; RFID systems that can withstand extreme environmental conditions can come in handy to control and monitor operations and thus increase the efficiency of the manufacturing process.
RFID tags can store lots of information; this information can be used to optimize production processes. In assembly line productions, such as automotive manufacturing, RFID can aid in making manufacturing process more flexible.
Additionally, RFID technology can be leveraged to monitor equipment within the facility by tagging machines, conveyors, trucks, or forklifts. Also, the raw material required for production can be tagged using RFID. This will allow to monitor real-time movements of raw materials which in turn can lead to efficient production planning.
The use of RFID technology in the supply chain can help in improving the accuracy, efficiency, and reliability across manufacturing, distribution and transportation. RFID allows real-time visibility of material and assets needed to keep the manufacturing process moving with clock work like efficiency. RFID reduces shipping errors, improves security, validates raw materials and finished goods, and offers increased visibility of goods within a supply chain.
Accuracy of inventory is paramount in any manufacturing plant. RFID technology can help improve inventory management. RFID's ability to track products and equipment can help in regulating the inventory of a factory, allowing users to better predict their needs with real-time data on raw material, equipment, or supply demands. RFID actually reduces human intervention and thus eliminates errors in inventory management.
Also, equipment and tool location inventories integrated with RFID technology can help improve the production scheduling or eliminate the need of reordering of materials thought to be lost. RFID also aids in limiting shrinkage or wastage of resources.
RFID technology is becoming the integral part across automotive and industrial production lines, as it allows IT system to interact with the real-world assets without user Intervention. RFID technology is one of the key building blocks for developing automated production environment where machine has individual control over the materials to be manufactured as part of the production phase. for example, RFID tags can be tagged to materials needs to be processed or monitored on continuous based or at regular intervals, allowing the individual material/component to report its identity and other data such as such as temperature, location and so on.
Presently, RFID technology in manufacturing sector is in early stage of development, for successful deployment of this technology in industrial automation and control environments, RFID receivers should be equipped with necessary features to communicate with existing hardware infrastructure such as programmable automation controllers (PACs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs and input/output (I/O) systems. Additionally, to integrate RFID technology in manufacturing environment, RFID solution providers operating across regions are continuously focusing on developing various use cases suitable for various manufacturing practices across industries and local market compliance requirements.
RFID solution providers involvement in integrating RFID technology in manufacturing environment is mainly due to the rising market reediness of automation solution and increasing popularity of utilizing ethernet as a connectivity solution in manufacturing facilities. With the help of ethernet networking interface any potable or fixed computing devices can have access to any equipment in production line and can send/receive real time production data seamlessly.
Furthermore, technology developments are continuously focusing on increasing real-time information of business operations, improved business performance, and to enhance security & privacy. The potential of RFID technology is indeed great, addressing various challenges that bring broad economic benefits in production environment.
Current practice allows RFID readers to transfer data captured from the tags to computing systems that controls the manufacturing process. The next step is towards developing smart factory, creating direct interface between manufacturing equipment and RFID system, which is expected to create highly diverse applications of RFID technology in manufacturing sector. However, security concerns, challenges in integrating with the existing infrastructure, implementation cost are the factors identified as restraints likely to deter the progression on RFID solutions in manufacturing sector.