RFID & [WIP] Work-in-Progress Tracking System for Manufacturing Units

Work in Progress Tracking System

WIP Tracking, Work-in-progress tracking encompasses nearly all the phases of manufacturing. It starts with tracking raw material which includes Receiving and the Put Away process. AssetPulse’s RFID solutions can provide Real Time visibility of flow of materials through the production process. It allows for a lean and optimized production process by keeping the demand and build requirements in sync.

As WIP is converted to subassemblies, they are moved standalone or in bins, containers and totes. We work with the Manufacturing Engineers to determine what should be tagged – the physical subassembly itself or the containers which carry them. This is a function of the ease and practicality with which the subassemblies themselves can be tagged. The factors to determine this include, the size of the subassembly, the material it is made of, the environment that the tag would be exposed to, contamination risk etc.  Class III Medical Devices and Semiconductor Wafers are cases where it is not likely direct-tagging is possible due to contamination risk. The extremely high temperatures in a firing process in industrial manufacturing may not allow for direct tagging.

Tracking WIP in real time provides accurate snapshots of exactly when it entered and exited a specific phase in production. Relying on personnel to ‘log in and log out’ WIP at each phase can lead to costly errors, especially in time-sensitive processes in medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing, where timestamps are also recorded.

Work in Progress Tracking System

Work-in-Progress Tracking System

WIP tracking can be accomplished in real-time or at critical junctures in the manufacturing process. This is also a function of the manufacturing environment. Industrial manufacturing floors lend themselves well to real-time tracking since there is typically, sufficient room to deploy RFID read-points on the floor. With respect to Clean Room Assembly lines, real-time tracking is possible with careful study of the lines and determining optimal RFID read-point locations at each workstation. AssetPulse has extensive experience with both industrial and Clean Room manufacturing operations.

Working closely with Manufacturing Engineering and Operations, we have successfully deployed our RFID solutions where bottlenecks, ‘waiting for parts’ stoppages, ‘completed too quickly’ steps, ‘taking too long’ steps, out-of-sequence steps etc. have been detected accurately and efficiently. Tracking Rework and scrapped parts provides visibility into oft-obscured parts of production.

AssetGather RFID solutions work hand-in-hand with Enterprise Resource Planning Systems during the entire manufacturing process. ERP systems track the virtual flow of raw materials through the processes while AssetGather’s RFID solutions track the physical flow. Real time updates back and forth between the two systems, allow not only for an efficient work flow, but also allows for maintaining integrity within the entire process by physically validating various process steps and alerting when an anomaly is detected.

It is highly recommended that all stakeholders in Manufacturing are involved in designing and deploying RFID solutions. Processes may need to be changed slightly or significantly, and in some cases, eliminated entirely. The initial scoping, design and redesign of processes is worth the effort, since this can result in a many-fold improvement in visibility, efficiency, accuracy and overall quality.

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How to Perform Efficient Asset Audits with RFID

rfid asset tracking inventory management

RFID is the Asset Manager’s great ally when it comes to annual asset audits…..

Wall to Wall Inventory Audit Process

Do you find yourself preoccupied with your annual asset audit for at least three months every year? Annual or Semi-annual audits are the bane of the Asset Manager’s existence. No matter the type of assets to be audited – IT assets across the Enterprise, instruments in Labs, tools on the manufacturing floor or weapons in the Armory – the process is excruciatingly tedious and burdensome. If you currently use barcodes or worse, a highly labor-intensive manual process to do your wall-to-wall audits, we commiserate with you. Having to crawl under desks or lab benches, reach behind assets in order to read off barcodes or serial numbers, is not only time consuming, but can also be injurious to your health! Often, teams of people are made to perform these audit tasks and it can take days, if not weeks. Once an audit is done of the entire company, considerable amount of time is spent reconciling the audited list with the list sent by your finance department.

Then the teams have the unenviable task of chasing down those assets that were not yet located the first time around. Now, equipment owners, lab managers, Principal Investigators and the like, are recruited to participate in the daunting task of having to track down the missing assets. After days of these expensive resources being deployed, the missing asset list is whittled down to a few dozen. The Finance department is then asked to write these items off. All in all, it is a costly and laborious process.

rfid asset tracking inventory management

RFID Asset Ttracking Inventory Management
Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berkeleylab/3523139681/

RFID Asset Tracking Solution for Wall to Wall Inventory

1) Identify all assets that you need to audit and RFID tag them

By using RFID asset tracking solutions i.e. RFID tagging the assets, using an RFID handheld reader only or a combination of RFID handheld readers and fixed RFID readers, the organization can more efficiently and accurately complete its audits, with nearly 100% reconciliation. Audit times can be cut down by nearly 90%, i.e. if a manual audit of a building takes 20 hours, an RFID scanned audit will take less than 2 hours to complete.

2) Perform audit with RFID scanner

How often has an audit team found an asset stashed away in a cardboard box in the far corner of a room after having spent dozens of hours looking for it. If the asset had an RFID tag on it, it would have been picked up the first time someone walked by it with an RFID scanner. This is because RFID tags can be read from inside cardboard and wooden boxes.

3) Scan multiple assets with RFID as opposed to 1 by 1 scanning of barcode

Scanning barcode tagged assets with a barcode scanner takes at a minimum 30 seconds per asset. This typically involves locating the barcode and then aligning the scanner in line with barcode to scan it. Whereas, scanning 100 assets that are RFID enabled takes less than 10 seconds. This enables the customer to be able to perform inventory scans more often and so asset information usually is up-to-date. Additionally, the AssetGather web application keeps track of each and every asset’s movement history. If during the audit process, a critical asset is not found, then the AssetGather web application can be used to identify where the RFID tagged asset in question was last seen. This helps save tremendous amount of time for the Inventory Manager who tries to locate an asset in a traditional barcode system.

4) 90% faster audits and efficient locating of assets with RFID

Our customers have not only seen at least a 90% reduction in audit times, but have also not seen a need to write off inventory due to their inability to locate them. Further, they have realized more than 100% ROI in less than 2 years.

One of our happy customers

“The AssetPulse active RFID solution meets my needs for managing the ALS vacuum equipment pool. The inventory and search capability of the active system is invaluable during the yearly wall to wall inventory of the entire lab. Having an up-to-date inventory record of all assets will cut the time and labor cost to the lab to an ultimate minimum. Previously, wall-to-wall inventory has taken multiple weeks to manually find and scan these assets.”

– Frank Zucca, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Since the AssetPulse web application server keeps track of asset movement history, additional data can be gleaned out of the system like what types of assets are used extensively and how long an RFID enabled asset stays at a particular location. This will help the inventory management team to stock more of these assets so that these assets do not become a bottle neck for regular day to day work.

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Equipment Tracking and Calibration Management in Cleanrooms Automated with AssetPulse RFID Asset Tracking Solution

RFID Cleanroom

Do you know what equipment has to go to Metrology for calibration? Do you know when it was removed from the cleanroom and whether it has gone to Metrology? Was it brought back to the Cleanroom and if so, when?

Equipment Management in Cleanroom

Cleanroom management in a biotech or high-tech company poses several challenges, many of which, if not addressed effectively, can severely impact the company’s bottom line. One of the many challenges is facilitating the strict adherence of the calibration schedule for all test and measurement equipment. This means, not only ensuring that the equipment is removed from the Cleanroom and sent to Metrology, but also that the equipment is returned to the right location in the Cleanroom from Metrology. Cleanroom management has very little visibility into this process. Several times, equipment may leave the Cleanroom, but is not delivered to Metrology in a timely fashion. Often calibration is completed, but the Cleanroom is not aware of it and the equipment is sitting on some shelf waiting to be returned to the Cleanroom.

RFID Cleanroom

AssetPulse Solution for Lab Equipment Management in Cleanroom

A global medical device company faced similar challenges for several years. These problems were of course exacerbated by its explosive growth, thus exposing it to more severe consequences. Over the years, it tried to address them with process modifications and applying various technologies.  With the AssetPulse lab equipment tracking solution – a combination of well-selected RFID tags, appropriate reader configurations and well-tuned asset tracking system, they were able to finally address the problems effectively. Not only were they able to get complete visibility of how the RFID tagged test equipment moved between the Cleanroom and Metrology, but they were proactively alerted when there was a break in the process – when equipment wasn’t delivered to Metrology in a timely manner or if calibrated equipment wasn’t returned to the Cleanroom when ready.  

Automated Asset Tracking software

  • Equipment movement from and to Cleanroom were monitored in real time by Fixed RFID readers
  • Metrology doors/portals were instrumented with fixed RFID readers.
  • Additionally, shelves that held calibrated equipment, waiting to be picked by Metrology were RFID instrumented.

The AssetGather automated RFID asset tracking solution alerted Equipment Managers that calibration was completed and that they could pick up their equipment at Metrology. Automatic tracking alleviated the shortcomings of the manual process involved in keeping track of equipment moving between Cleanrooms and Metrology.

In order to realize the full potential of AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution it is very critical to choose optimal RFID tags. Not only do they have to be mounted on very small pieces of equipment including 6” rulers, but they also have to withstand the sterile environment of the Cleanroom. This means they have to withstand chemical wipe-downs and sometimes more rigorous cleansing.  AssetPulse offers tried and tested RFID tags of different form factors and properties like the ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions and to sustain exposure to chemicals.

When it comes to High-Tech Cleanrooms, equipment might need to be sent to third-party calibration houses. One or more locations can be designated for holding equipment that is being sent out for calibration. These locations are monitored automatically and the Cleanroom Equipment managers can be notified when equipment is removed from these locations to be sent out. When they are returned from the Calibration company, the managers are notified, so they can go pick them up from those locations and place them back in the Cleanroom.

 

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How AssetPulse RFID Enabled Asset Tracking Facilitates in Maintenance and Servicing of Equipment?

AssetPulse RFID enabled asset tracking facility

RFID helps equipment owners to maximize the life of their assets by facilitating regular maintenance and repairs of their equipment. RFID can be leveraged across numerous industries for this purpose, including manufacturing, construction, oil and gas and Utilities. Building maintenance professionals who are responsible for HVAC equipment can also greatly benefit from the use of RFID. A CMMS Study finds that 34% of users do not track asset data

According to the study two thirds of them track asset data manually. This can lead to inaccuracies and incomplete information about their assets. Having suboptimal maintenance procedures can greatly impact the longevity and safety of their equipment.

It is important for owners to have a complete picture of their assets, including insight into utilization, allocation, operations, maintenance, safety and regulatory testing of their assets. The reality however is that at any given instant, they may have their assets spread across multiple locations making it difficult to keep asset information reconciled and to ensure that maintenance and safety procedures are executed and recorded in a timely and accurate manner.

AssetPulse’s RFID enabled asset tracking can help professionals efficiently track and assess asset health. How?

All assets are tagged with RFID tags. With the help of AssetGather software, maintenance professionals can track their assets as they move through various locations leveraging the RFID reader infrastructure. This can either be a mobile or fixed infrastructure or a combination of both.

If an asset is serviced, the maintenance team can update maintenance data in the AssetGather system. Or, if an asset has returned from a leased usage, usage information about the asset can be updated in AssetGather.

Critical data can also be stored in the RFID tag itself, so it is available to maintenance professionals locally, even if they have no network access to the centralized system.

Not only does the system allow for  updating maintenance data, AssetGather also provides for proactive alerting of upcoming scheduled maintenance, regulatory testing and other critical attributes for each asset.  Email alerts are a convenient method to warn users of these imminent tasks. Overdue or missed maintenance can also result in escalated notifications.

Maintenance and regulatory documents can be stored digitally within the system. This eliminates the need to search through myriad documents in the case of an audit. Thus, AssetGather facilitates easy access to all asset related data including its movement, operational details, maintenance and regulatory testing information.

AssetPulse RFID enabled asset tracking facility

AssetPulse RFID enabled asset tracking facility

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RFID’s Role in Oil Industry’s Consolidation Process

As the world oil markets continue to be in flux, consolidation within the oil and gas industry, especially in North America, is accelerating. The small to medium business sector is seeing significant activity.

Companies are being acquired, not only for their customer base, but also for their assets. Organizations that are positioning themselves as acquisition candidates need to streamline their business processes and show enhanced visibility of their assets. This makes them more attractive to prospective acquirers. Using AssetPulse’s RFID based asset tracking solutions, these savvy companies not only achieve 100% visibility of their assets, but also can leverage them to streamline their business processes – processes to accurately check-in/check-out assets to and from jobs, efficiently manage maintenance and inspections of all their equipment, tie all this into their financial systems, etc. Being able to show end-to-end visibility of their assets along with streamlined operations, makes it easier for potential suitors to do due diligence on the companies, thereby making them more attractive targets. Not only do they position themselves well in the M&A markets, they also enjoy the side benefits of reduced operational costs resulting from efficient use of their assets and resources.

Once an acquiring company has completed a merger, they have to be able to quickly incorporate the new member into their operations. In order to make the unification efficient, companies standardize on using RFID based asset tracking solutions to maximize visibility of their augmented operations and asset inventory.

Mergers lead to additional company locations, servicing an expanded list of regions and geographies. It becomes even more important to know where all the assets are and whether they are being utilized optimally. Leveraging the visibility provided by our RFID solutions, oil and gas companies are able to make decisions about re-allocation of assets amongst the locations based on each region’s business needs. Further, they are able to make informed determinations on new purchases, balancing the requirements of each location. Excess equipment is either disposed of, or is leased out in order to reduce expenses and increase revenue. The rental side of the business can also leverage the RFID based asset tracking solutions, just like the mainstream business.

And of course, our solutions can also play a significant role in tracking maintenance and inspections of equipment across the entire company. As new divisions or regions are added, it is imperative that HSE policies of the parent company continue to be enforced and adopted. Our solutions show whether preventive maintenance and safety inspections are being done routinely, and can flag alerts if and when the occasional ball is dropped.

 

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