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.

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 workorder 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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