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RFID Helps Endwave Track Work-in-Progress

The company is utilizing EPC Gen 2 tags to monitor the production of communications hardware for the aerospace and defense sectors.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 26, 2008Endwave Defense Systems, a manufacturer of amplifiers, transceivers and other RF communications modules for the aerospace and defense industries, is employing RFID technology to gain visibility on its production floor, and to monitor the status of work-in-progress at its 20,000-square-foot facility in Diamond Springs, Calif.

By tracking each bin of components from the time a module is ordered through the final inspection of that product before its shipment, Endwave can know where a specific order is located, how long it has spent in any particular place and who has worked on it. The company can also receive alerts if an unauthorized employee works on a product, if a product is sent back to a previous work station (or "cell") to be reworked, or if it is delayed at a certain point during production. The firm piloted the system at the end of 2007, deploying it in the production facility in February 2008.

David Orain
When Endwave receives an order, product floor employees take a plastic bin (bins vary in size from about half that of a shoe box to the equivalent of three shoe boxes) and fill it with all of the components necessary for the product's assembly. The bin passes through up to five separate assembly cells, then waits on a shelf until a worker takes it and begins working on the product. The employee then returns the pieces to the bin and passes it on to the next cell.

Once the product completes assembly, it goes through quality assurance—including final visual inspection and physical tests—before being shipped to the customer. But with hundreds of products being manufactured at any given time in the large facility, if a customer calls for an update on a particular order, an employee must walk through the assembly floor to physically search for the corresponding bin.

The RFID-based tracking system, designed by Omnitrol Networks, makes that process easier, according to David Orain, the firm's VP of marketing. Omnitrol installed 12 Motorola XR400 readers on Endwave's shelves, and at other locations where the bins are stored as they move through production.

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