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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

Logopak Systems, a German-based global provider of labeling machines, as well as fully integrated labeling systems, is demonstrating a machine module that uses RFID tags to identify furniture parts, while Venjakob is showing how a coating machine can utilize RFID to recognize the parts being coated, and to instruct the machine accordingly. Other RFID Factory participants include woodworking machinery company Homag Group, sensor company Balluff, industrial automation provider Fraunhofer-Anwendungszentrum and software firm Wanko Informationslogistik.

Logopak has recently released an RFID solution for the furniture industry in the form of the ATA, a machine that automatically embeds RFID tags into wooden furniture parts, according to Lars Thuring, the company's strategic development manager.

Logopak's Lars Thuring
When custom furniture is being made, tracking the unique components that are assembled into the furniture, as well as the painting or staining required for each piece, can be complex. Many companies manage this process by applying bar-code labels to each piece, such as a shelf or leg. However, when it comes time to paint such pieces, their labels must be removed. In some cases, companies instruct their staff to remove the labels prior to painting, and to then return the labels once the coating is dry—a practice that can lead to lost or damaged labels.

Some companies are making the tracking process more efficient by embedding RFID tags into the wood components before they are painted or coated. Employees can then read each tag ID and identify details, such as the kind and color of paint that should be applied.

"The RFID tags can then be used throughout the manufacturing process," Thuring says, "and later in the supply chain." Logopak released its ATA machine this month, and expects field trials to soon follow.

"It was a very conscious move to make RFID Factory an integral part of LIGNA," Pfeiffer says. "RFID is one of the primary components needed in order to achieve efficiently networked manufacturing."

By showcasing products from companies like Logopak, Pfeifer says, the RFID Factory "takes the visitors from fresh felled timber on to wood processing and treatment, and to downstream processes, such as the supply of subcontracted components and actual manufacturing," and ultimately through the supply chain to the customer. This, he adds, illustrates the benefits of implementing RFID throughout the supply chain.

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