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RFID Carves Out a Place in Woodworking Industry

Woodworking factory equipment companies are highlighting how RFID technology can be used for tracking inventory and work-in-progress, as well for other purposes, to improve efficiency and enable the quick production of made-to-order furniture.
By Claire Swedberg

In general, Ermlich says, there are two common production models for the manufacture and sale of furniture in Germany. In one case, furniture companies provide high-volume products, mostly shipped on pallets, and typically not high-priced. In those cases the, he adds, logistics procedures are fairly easy to manage, and RFID provides limited value.

"The second production procedure is order-orientated," Ermlich states, "and often comes with completely built pieces of furniture which are not [palletized]." Customers typically place custom orders, often online, for a specific kind of furniture for their home, office or other location. "That makes the handling much more difficult. In this case, the potential for lost parts is significantly higher, and so are the costs for each individual error."

LIGNA's Christian Pfeiffer
Companies filling the custom-based orders are the ones that benefit most from deploying RFID, Ermlich says, though he notes that all of Abaco's customers "are obviously looking for cost reduction through higher efficiency."

Most furniture companies are somewhere in the process of evolving from using a manual pen-and-paper process to track work-in-progress and inventory, to employing bar codes and then RFID. "You still come across companies, now and then, that track their logistic processes by pen and paper," Ermlich says. "In most companies, you find some sort of bar-code application today, but at certain points, bar-code scanning reaches its limit."

The shortcomings of bar codes, for instance, come into play when staff members must scan 2,500 bar-code labels daily to document the loading of trucks. The implementation of an RFID solution based on bulk reading enables the company to minimize the incidence of human errors and reduce costs.

For many companies, this has meant an evolution to reading RFID tags attached to furniture items via an RFID mobile device.

"The idea behind the RFID Factory is to show potential customers the RFID technology in the context of their own industry," Ermlich says. "The technology is best presented in the environment known to the visitor."

For that reason, the RFID Factory includes demonstrations of how RFID can be used during furniture coating or painting machines, in edge banding machines and for furniture logistics applications.

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