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Trailer Maker Uses RFID to Stay Lean
At its plant in Penticton, British Columbia, a real-time location system is helping Peerless determine the pace of production needed to meet customer demand and identify delays.
Feb 16, 2007—Canadian heavy-haul trailer manufacturer Peerless is using a real-time location system (RTLS) to help track the time it takes to assemble, sandblast and paint two types of its logging trailers—a 20-wheeled B-Train, which features two connected trailers, and a 16-wheeled Quad Axel logger.
Peerless is a wholly owned subsidiary of McCoy Corp., a Canadian provider of products and services to the transportation industry. Last summer, the company began installing RFind Systems' RTLS at its plant in Penticton, British Columbia. The system was intended to support a new lean manufacturing initiative the company began when it was acquired by McCoy Corp. The goal of the lean manufacturing model is to create a production environment driven by demand that holds only a small amount of inventory and products at any given time.
RFind, based in Kaleden, British Columbia, provides an RFID-based RTLS called TAQnav (an abbreviation for "tag acquisition query navigation"). Its active Talon tags operate at 915 MHz and can be read from up to 750 feet away. Pivotal to TAQnav is the system's ability to create a mesh network of RFind active tags, which communicate with each other and a nearby gateway via a proprietary air-interface protocol. A tag can be configured to asset mode and affixed to an asset so it can be tracked, or it can be set to locator mode and attached to a stationary object to act as an interrogator.
Talon tags affixed to assets communicate with the fixed locator tags to gather signal data. The asset tags then send that data, along with the tag's unique ID number, battery life and other pertinent information, to the nearest RFind Gateway. The Gateway shares its data with RFind's Expeditor 2-D software, a Microsoft Windows-based application that calculates each asset tag's location to within 5 to 7 feet, using algorithms based on the tag's signal strength. The software can also create reports so customers can track and trend data collected from the tags.
Last summer, Peerless installed locator tags in the concrete flooring of several workstations within its pilot lean manufacturing line, drilling holes about 2 inches deep and 2 inches wide to accommodate the hockey-puck-sized Talon tags, says Dave Tulloch, Peerless' operations manager. The decision to install the tags in-ground was made to protect them. "The environment we're in is hostile," says Tulloch, "and you can't just have one of these tags sitting on the floor, where someone might kick it or drop something on it."
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