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Clothing, Car-Cover Manufacturers Track Work-in-Progress via RFID

The companies are using an NFC-based system from Shopfloor to view who completed which tasks, in order to identify assembly bottlenecks, facilitate quality control and monitor worker productivity.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 25, 2016

Covercraft, a car-cover manufacturer based in Pauls Valley, Okla., is using a Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID solution provided by Shopfloor to help track the clocking-in and movements of operators throughout its plant. The Shopfloor system enables Covercraft to know which tasks were conducted, by whom and when; monitor who was responsible in the event that an error occurs; and pay workers based on the specific quantity of tasks they complete. Several clothing or shoe manufacturers are employing a Shopfloor solution in a similar fashion, with a maker of men's suits also planning to utilize the technology for a consumer-based application.

Shopfloor, based in Alpharetta, Ga., produces wireless shop floor control (SFC) solutions for manufacturers of apparel and other consumer products. By implementing the company's Shopfloor Eye software, in conjunction with NFC RFID technology or QR codes, a manufacturer can automate the collection of work-in-progress (WIP) data. But Shopfloor is now considering a consumer-facing use case for some of its customers. If an NFC RFID tag is incorporated into a product, shoppers could use their Android-based devices, with a Shopfloor app, to access data regarding a particular product, such as where, when and how that item was made. They could also view photographs of the product as it was assembled.

At a garment factory, workers begin their shifts by tapping their NFC RFID employee badges against the NFC-enabled Google Nexus 7 tablets built into their workstations.
Covercraft, which also makes car-seat and dashboard covers, as well as floor mats and other products, is using the Shopfloor Eye software in conjunction with NFC RFID tags embedded in employee badges and QR codes printed on the products. As an operator begins working at the start of each day, that individual taps his or her badge against the Google Nexus 7 tablet's built-in reader, then scans a QR code printed on each product. That data is stored so that the company can maintain a record of who provided which processes on that product. The information can be used to identify when a machine or operator is not functioning properly, or where bottlenecks occur. The firm is using QR codes rather than NFC tags since they are less expensive when purchased in large volumes.

A Puerto Rican manufacturer of military products is utilizing the Shopfloor Eye software and NFC RFID tags made with NXP Semiconductors' NTAG213 chips to track each pair of shoes through the assembly process, as well as matching that product to the individual workers and machines that carry out the assembly. That data, says Justin Hershoran, a Shopfloor partner, enables inspectors to easily review information, provide their own input and route an item to the repair area, if necessary, before it is sold to the customer.

The company—which has asked to remain unnamed—began using the solution approximately one year ago, and changed its payment model to compensating each employee according to the number of products he or she completed. The new system has since saved about 15 to 20 minutes of each worker's time (which was previously spent filling out paperwork about which tasks were being performed) while employees' productivity has increased by 10 to 15 percent, since they are automatically being paid per task completed.

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