How RFID makes factories smarter

How RFID makes factories smarter
With manufacturers all over the world turning to Industry 4.0, also known as the Industrial Internet of Things, it’s natural that they place a stronger emphasis on RFID, another technology that makes factories smarter.
Asset tracking and management can benefit most from RFID deployed in factories. In conventional technologies, items are barcoded and scanned one by one before entering the next process, presenting several problems: first, this is too slow; and second, this is prone to errors as workers make mistakes or do not follow instructions properly. RFID, on the other hand, appeals by enabling large amounts of tagged items, parts or components to be identified all at once, presenting a quicker and more effective solution.
“Live data associated to the item can be read and modified automatically at process points (RFID stations), contributing to reducing human errors, improving manufacturing velocity and quality controls (problems are identified at item-level and resolved quickly), and shipping accuracy, therefore increasing operational efficiency,” said Angeline Fraud, Marketing Communications Manager at INVENGO.

Types of RFID

RFID can be categorized by LF, HF and UHF, each operating in a different frequency channel: LF works in 120-150 kHz, HF 13.56 MHz, and UHF 433 MHz.
While LF and HF remain the dominant RFID technology in factories, more and more operators are turning to UHF due to its two main advantages: It can do batch reading – identifying a large quantity of items at the same time – and it reads things from a much longer distance than LF and HF. UHF can read items from a distance up to 100 meters, compared with 10 centimeters for LF and 10 cm to 1 m for HF. Choosing the right RFID frequency therefore depends on the nature of manufacturing and the objectives that the end users need to achieve. According to Fraud, the points to consider may include:
  • The type of product to RFID-enable – doe the product contain metal or liquid?
  • The product’s environment
  • The required reading distance
  • The quantities of items to read at once

Other things to beware of

Meanwhile, RFID equipment, whether readers or tags, must meet certain requirements in an industrial environment. “They need to be rugged and resistant to the harsh environmental conditions such as humidity, dust and rough handling. RFID equipment also require specific tuning and settings in order to cooperate with metallic industrial machinery and neon lights which have considerable impact on RFID reading performance. RFID tags integrated into linen items have to be resistant to the linen maintenance process, which includes washing, heat drying, and water extraction/pressing operations (up to 60 bar pressure),” Fraud said.
While RFID can be applied to manufacturing in different industries, there are still certain challenges. “There are barriers and limitations that can have an effect on RFID deployment. These barriers include technological issues such as an unfriendly environment providing poor reading performance, financial issues such as implementation costs as barcodes labels will always be cheaper than tags, and privacy and security issues,” she said.
Despite that, Fraud maintains RFID applications in factories will only become more widespread. “This is mostly due to the spread of proven information highlighting the significant benefits of RFID technology in factories over the past years, the maturity and optimization of all in one solutions, the fact that RFID benefits impact not only the end-user, but also its entire ecosystem, and the fact that RFID is a true game-changer, and early adopters are banking on the innovation and differentiation it brings to them compared to their competitors,” she said.

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