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Transmission Company Puts RFID System Into Gear

The Kentucky wholesaler says its bar-code tracking system couldn’t cope with the harsh industrial conditions found at its facility.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 14, 2006Many companies have decided to continue using their established bar-code systems alongside RFID for the near-term, but that's not the case at Whatever It Takes Transmission Parts (WIT), located in Louisville, Ky. Rather, the transmission parts wholesaler is throwing out all the bar-code labels it currently uses during its pick-and-pack operations and switching entirely to reusable read-write RFID tags.

The manufacturer says it has had enough of replacing bar code-labels that have failed after getting torn, dirty or worn out. The bar-code labels attach to open-top totes holding parts gathered for customer orders. When new, the labels' bar-code read rate is about 1 failure per 100 totes, but after about six months, the failure rate typically increases to about 50 percent. Whatever It Takes Transmission then has to replace the bar-code labels, costing the company several thousand dollars. In addition, because the bar-code scanners are affixed to the sides of conveyors that move the totes through the pick-and-pack process, they sometimes get bumped out of alignment, rendering them inoperable.

To alleviate this problem, Frank Stamper, an employee in the firm's IT department, experimented with placing bar-code readers underneath the conveyor system. However, the scanners' lasers couldn't easily and accurately read the bar-code labels since the metal rollers on the conveyor sometimes got in the way.

SAVR Communications came up with an RFID solution that can accommodate the wholesaler's industrial environment of dirt, dust and grime. This new system is designed to perform well even though the conveyor system and many parts contained within the totes are metal.

"My application is really simple," says Stamper, " but you have to read the tags through metal rollers—and, of course, most of the material in the totes is metal and fiber. That is what is unique: the type of environment that we are in."

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