How does RFID help in Manufacturing Changeover Process?

Change over

Changeover is an important component of lean manufacturing initiatives. It is the process followed when a manufacturing line is being changed over from producing one part to another or from completing one workorder to starting a new workorder. Changeovers can last from a few hours to days or weeks, depending on how extensive the changes to the line are. This process requires a lot of attention to detail and can be vulnerable to human errors. Errors during the Changeover process can have lasting repercussions long after the finished goods leave the line. Due to the meticulous nature of doing a Changeover process, specially trained personnel are needed to perform these tasks, which can be costly. Ultimate goal of any manufacturing organization is to achieve the fastest possible changeovers without compromising on accuracy or quality.

Changeover complexity depends more on the process itself—factors such as number of internal steps, and validations required. Rapid changeover is critical to improving flow and maximizing throughput. Use of RFID can go a long way in automating this process, thereby minimizing or even eliminating human errors. Aside from error prevention, the Changeover process can also be expedited, thereby reducing overall downtime of the manufacturing line.

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AssetPulse’ RFID solution has been implemented at various manufacturing facilities to automate the Changeover process. In industries that are strictly governed by compliance requirements, using the AssetPulse RFID Asset tracking solution also allows for automated record keeping. Details about Raw Material or Components including Part numbers, Lot numbers, Batch numbers, etc. can be automatically recorded at each point of the Manufacturing Line during Changeover. Equipment and Tools deployed during the Changeover process can also be automatically recorded.

How RFID helps in Line Changeover Process?
How RFID helps in Line Changeover Process?

Not only does the AssetPulse RFID solution help automate recording of tools, equipment and components deployed during the Changeover process, but it can also help with validation and detecting errors. At every step, a validation can automatically be performed to ensure the right tools, equipment and components or raw materials are placed at the right location. On incorrect placement, the user can be alerted, so the error is rectified immediately.

RFID can also help with enforcing the sequence of steps in the Changeover process. E.g. if the Changeover process requires pre-staging to be done, before the items are moved to the actual line, the AssetPulse RFID Asset Tracking solution can ensure the right items are pre-staged and will throw up errors if they are moved to the line without the pre-staging step. AssetPulse customers have seen a much-improved Changeover process, that is faster, more accurate and which allows the organization to meet compliance regulations with significantly lesser time and resources.

RFID Enabled Tracking of Raw Material in a 2 Bin Kanban System

Many well reputed companies have deployed the 2 Bin Kanban system in their manufacturing facilities. This simple system employs two bins to manage small but critical raw material inventory on the assembly line. Parts are supplied in this pull system through two rotating bins. The technician pulls parts from one bin till it is empty and then switches to the second bin. The empty first bin triggers an event that causes the bin to be replenished.

Often, manual labor is used to look for empty bins on the line. A ‘runner’ periodically moves through the lines, picking up the empty bins and transporting them to the warehouse for replenishment. Some parts need replenishment more often than others. This can easily either cause delays and consequently, bottlenecks on the assembly line or require more manual labor, thereby increasing costs.

AssetPulse has worked with manufacturing organizations to proactively alert when an empty bin is generated. Communicating with ERP and other manufacturing systems, the Warehouse is able to decide when to deploy the ‘runner’ to pick up bins on specific lines, thereby optimizing the ‘pick up’ process. Additionally the speed at which the individual items are pulled will determine how many of the items are placed in the bins. This will help in identifying the number of items required to replenish the first bin, so that there is little risk of running low on stock which in turn could slow down production.

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Choosing the right RFID tags for this use case is critical. Since the bins can be placed in close proximity of one another, it is very important that only the correct bins are read, and not other extraneous bins located close by. This issue of cross-reads can be a fundamental reason why the whole system can break down. Cross-reads can also be facilitated by choosing incorrect hardware – the RFID reader and/or RFID antenna. This is one main reason, why it is recommended that the Manufacturing Organization work with a single vendor to deploy such solutions, thereby optimizing all aspects of the solution – the RFID tags, the RFID reader hardware and the RFID software.

It is the software that facilitates proper handling of the bins. E.g., once the Warehouse replenishes the bins, our RFID asset tracking solutions can be used to ensure correct dispensing of bins, i.e. are the correct replenished bins placed at the correct locations? Working in close integration with ERP and Manufacturing Systems, AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solutions communicate information about these bins back and forth, validating the correct placement of bins and alerting when exceptions occur.

The 2 Bin Kanban system is typically used in industries that function in high volumes. Further, this system is suited for manufacturing lines where there is high overlap of parts across multiple product lines. The same RFID solutions can also be leveraged to expedite changeovers on the line. Changeover is the process of converting a manufacturing line from one product to another or from one work order to another. The tedious, but critical task of removing all bins from the ‘old’ line and deploying the bins required for the ‘new’ line, is time consuming and error prone. Leveraging AssetPulse’s RFID solutions, organizations are able to complete this task quicker and with fewer errors. Our system has real-time knowledge of the exact location of all the bins (when they are being tracked via RFID at the workstations). Due to continuous integration with ERP and Manufacturing systems, we are able to make decisions on which bins can remain in place, which bins need to be removed and what new bins need to be added to the line. Validation of the removal of old bins and placement of new bins is also done.

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Work Order Tracking on the Manufacturing Floor

RFID for Work Order Tracking System

Work Order Tracking – Regardless of industry, be it medical devices manufacturing, semiconductor/aerospace manufacturing or industrial molding, work orders or paper travelers are an integral part of the assembly line. The actual usage of the paper traveler may differ from industry to industry, but the challenges of tracking them, remain the same.

Work orders or paper travelers usually accompany the product being manufactured. Some may relate to a single product and others relate to a batch of product. As the parts and unfinished products move through the different work cells on the manufacturing floor, the traveler needs to stay in close proximity to the unfinished product, since it contains vital information of the state of the Work in Process (WIP) product. RFID tagging the workorder enables in work order tracking which in turn allows the product to be tracked through the manufacturing process. In essence, the workorder can be a good proxy for the WIP items. This is especially true with sensitive WIP like medical devices and semiconductor wafers, where the WIP cannot be directly RFID tagged.

RFID for Work Order Tracking System
Work Order Tracking System

Various parameters can be monitored with work order tracking including the last known location of the work order, and recording the sequence of work cells it went through.  For instance, as the paper travelers are transitioning through work cells, the time spent at each work cell directly correlates to the time spent by the technicians/engineers at each work cell which in turn, feeds into calculating the Cost of product(s) being manufactured. RFID tagging the workorders and tracking them through the workstations, allows organizations to track the time spent and the speed at which parts and unfinished products move through the manufacturing floor. These insights help to improve the production efficiency where required.

Additionally, a completed workorder is an indication of finished product. So, completed work order tracking can give direct insight into how much product has been manufactured, which in turn, can provide insight into inventory levels of used and current raw material.

Occasionally, the workorder along with the unfinished product can get misplaced or ‘wander away’. The downtime that results from searching for them, can adversely impact manufacturing efficiency and throughput. RFID tagging the work orders is an excellent solution to address this issue. With AssetPulse’s AssetGather RFID based work order tracking software, the workorder can be monitored and ‘searched for’ in the event of misplacement.

Further, when manufacturing is complete, workorders may need to be archived for audit reasons, whether they are stored on site or moved offsite. Either way, RFID tagging them is an excellent and efficient way to search for them and locate them quickly.

AssetPulse’s customizable RFID asset tracking solution is used by several of AssetPulse’ customers as a work order tracking system for tracking workorder on their manufacturing floor. Few customers have also integrated this process into their GMP guidelines. Customers span various industries including aerospace, construction and biotech.

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RFID for Inventory Control in Manufacturing

RFID Implemented for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

Managing inventory levels in a cost-effective and revenue-driven manner can be difficult, even for the most experienced manufacturer. Without access to effective software to help automate inventory control processes, properly managing inventory levels can be quite the challenge for manufacturers. AssetPulse RFID asset tracking software helps in automating the inventory management.

RFID Implemented for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations
RFID Based Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

AssetPulse’s inventory control capabilities allow manufacturers to automate their processing based off of previous purchasing trends and can even set reminder alert for raw material orders to renew when needed. This is achieved using RFID tags for assets and deploying RFID readers in strategic locations. With a real time inventory data, inventory control becomes less of a pain point and more a second nature

How inventory is traditionally managed?

Many different ways are used to keep control of inventory. One basic method is by creating a spreadsheet with various columns for product name, item number, and quantity. A column to deduct what is sold. Additionally, a log for returns and new incoming stock is maintained. It requires continuous manual monitoring to ensure every transaction is accounted for. Of course, this is an incredibly labor-intensive process. The information is difficult to share, and another huge pitfall is human error. People are prone to make mistakes––mistakes that are difficult to track and result in inaccurate inventory numbers.

Forecasting Demand

A manufacturer relies on inventory to complete a finished product for which they expect to get paid. For example, an aerospace manufacturer has millions of dollars in parts in their inventory of raw materials that they include in the finished product.

Forecasting demand is essential for any business. For a manufacturer, this means having enough inventories on hand to meet this demand. If a manufacturer fails to forecast demand and orders too little inventory, they face the possibility of losing customers to a competitor. A late order may come at a higher expense, as supplier prices rise due to increased demand; this is another way the manufacturer loses money. If the manufacturer overestimates demand and orders too much inventory, they stand the chance of having unused inventory and may have to incur additional storage costs.

AssetPulse’s RFID in Manufacturing

Inventory management can be automated with the help of RFID to track and manage assets. RFID tags are affixed onto the items that are inventoried. With the help of Fixed RFID readers or handheld RFID scanners, inventory data is updated in real-time or periodically, whichever is preferred.

This inventory data is centrally stored on a web application that can be readily accessed from anywhere. Apart from this, AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution also alerts users when the inventory level is running below par. All this happens automatically without any human intervention, thereby making the otherwise time consuming process very efficient and accurate.

The RFID asset tracking software also has different reports including historical reports which enables manufacturer to forecast a demand and stock required inventory.

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RFID in Manufacturing Helps Gain Better Visibility Into Production Data

RFID in manufacturing process

One of AssetPulse’s customers integrated RFID into the production work flow. Goods manufactured are embedded with unique RFID tags and each RFID asset data gets mapped to unique serial number of item being manufactured.

It is quite essential for management to get visibility into the number of goods manufactured in a given period of time and get other granular details like the quantity of the type of items manufactured per day, per shift and so on. Based on the production data, management can address any efficiency issues that might exist or bring about a process change for the better.

Without RFID all these information had to be tracked manually by feeding data into a spreadsheet or a register, which was prone to manual errors. Additionally, verifying produced goods involved manually sorting and counting them, which is quite time consuming. More importantly, archiving and reporting historical production data required intensive data mining.

RFID in manufacturing process

Now, with RFID asset tracking introduced in the manufacturing process, each and every item that gets manufactured is embedded with an RFID tag. AssetPulse asset tracking software feeds RFID data along with serial number of the item manufactured, time of manufacture, shift timing and other relevant information into a spreadsheet which is then packaged along with the production slip. RFID scanner is used to scan 100’s of produced goods in a fraction of minute and this is cross-verified against the production slip to ensure integrity of the production lot. Cross-verifying a production lot used to take at least an hour without RFID earlier.

AssetPulse asset tracking software archives the production data which is used for easier reporting and data analytics. If the manufactured goods are returned servicing or for RMA, then with the help of the unique RFID tag that is embedded, it is very easy to identify the manufacturing details of the product such as date of manufacture, batch and quantities manufactured in the batch etc. This data can be used in identifying production, QA or manufacturing issues and appropriate corrective actions can be taken.

Basically, RFID in manufacturing process provides visibility of the process as well as statistical data, all of which can be used for increasing efficiency. Want to know if RFID is the right technology for your tracking project? Contact us today.

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