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Hong Kong Electroplating Company Speeds Up Production With RFID

Jing Mei Industrial is using passive UHF tags and readers to better track workflow.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 10, 2014

Electroplating company Jing Mei Industrial (JMI) has increased its workflow efficiency and reduced the incidence of errors, as well as creating a record for product historical analysis, thanks to a radio frequency identification system deployed at two of its assembly lines.

JMI applies metal coatings to components used to make kitchen and bath appliances, electronic consumer products and automotive equipment. Typically, electroplating requires that parts be immersed in a tank filled with an electrolyte solution containing dissolved metal salts and ions.

A passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tag is attached to the carrier bar above each carrier rack used to convey products and components down the line.
The electroplating process for each item varies according to the size and material being coated, as each requires specific electric-current and temperature settings and a particular concentration of chemical solutions. Different production lines at Jing Mei's plant are dedicated to different processes, and the parameters of those processes—such as the amount of time spent in preprocessing, plating and post-processing—can also vary, according to the specific plating requirements. Before the system was implemented, workers and supervisors had to closely monitor the plating lines and manually record the items' time spent on each process.

The manual method left many details of what was happening on the production floor unknown, says Parry Chow, the Jing Mei Group of Companies' director of systems management. "In the past," she explains, "we could not know, in real time, how many products had been produced and how many were in the producing stage." This made it difficult to determine if orders were being processed according to schedule. Timely reporting of production output and quality issues were also difficult, Chow notes, because all manual data needed to be re-input into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Jing Mei Group's Parry Chow
To collect the work-in-progress data automatically, says Jacky Ting, PCCW's senior consultant, JMI deployed PCCW Solutions Ltd.'s RFID-based Electroplating Process Management System on two of its production lines.

The company attached a Confidex Ironside Micro RFID tag to a carrier bar located above each carrier rack used to convey products and components down the line (a total of 400 tags are in use at the two production lines). JMI selected this tag due to its chemical resistance and durability in the presence of extreme temperatures. Since the tag is applied to the carrier bar—and not to the product itself—it can automatically be reused once a new product is attached to that rack.

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