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Deere-Hitachi Excavator Factory Improves Work-in-Progress

The company has deployed AeroScout RFID tags and exciters to identify when an excavator passes from one work station to the next, or is pulled off the assembly line.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 22, 2014

Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Corp. is employing AeroScout Industrial Wi-Fi radio frequency identification tags to track the assembly of construction machinery at its facility in Kernersville, N.C. The solution, provided by Kubica Corp., a Michigan systems engineering company previously known as Prime Technologies, identifies when each excavator passes through a specific zone on its way to the next assembly station, thereby increasing efficiency and providing visibility into the firm's work-in-progress (WIP). Cisco provided its Cisco Mobility Services Engine, an appliance that triangulates each tag's position. Prime Technologies had provided a similar solution to John Deere's Seeding Group in 2011 (see John Deere Planter Factory Gains Efficiency).

The excavation-machinery assembly plant is the result of a 1988 joint venture between John Deere and Hitachi, and both brands of excavators are made onsite. As part of that partnership, the two companies take turns managing the facility during alternating three-year periods.

Dennis Kubica
Last year, the Deere-Hitachi enterprise began discussions with AeroScout Industrial regarding a real-time location system (RTLS) solution that could provide greater visibility into where each excavator is located during assembly, in real time, as well as collecting historical data for efficiency upgrades. AeroScout, which offers battery-powered RFID tags that transmit unique identifiers to Wi-Fi nodes, recommended Kubica for the system integration and installation. At the time, recalls Dennis Kubica, Kubica Corp.'s CEO, Deere-Hitachi was expanding the assembly operations and required a system that would enable it to track WIP and amend operations as needed to improve efficiency.

Deere-Hitachi's workers were tasked with manually updating information from the assembly floor, in order to create a record of how quickly a product moved through each station, as well as when it was removed from the assembly line for some other service, such as fixing a detected flaw. However, the company wanted to take that responsibility out of the hands of employees, and create a more automated solution that would collect the data in real time. (Deere-Hitachi has declined to comment for this story.)

The company indicated to Kubica that it wanted an active RFID tag that could be applied to each individual excavator, but that could also be reused, thereby saving the cost of tag replacement.

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