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John Deere Planter Factory Gains Efficiency

AeroScout Wi-Fi RFID tags allow the equipment manufacturer's kitting staff to boost material replenishment speed, and assembly workers to prepare for specific equipment as it approaches their assembly stations.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 18, 2011Agriculture equipment manufacturer John Deere has increased efficiency in the way it replenishes welding material as well as the way it carries out processes at its assembly stations at a factory run by its Seeding Group in Moline, Ill. That's due to a Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS) provided by AeroScout and integrated by Prime Technologies, a Michigan company that acted as general contractor for the system's installation.

Since the system went into full production in March of this year, the company has seen a 10 percent increase in efficiency in welding due to improvements in material replenishment and fewer delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas, says Shay O'Neal, John Deere Seeding Group's project manager. He adds that replenishment of kit carts, which are loaded with welding materials used by workers, is 40 percent faster. On the assembly line, the system provides a view into work in process (WIP), which thus far has reduced the cycle time (Takt) it takes to assemble a single product by about 5 percent. AeroScout's tags and software were integrated by Prime Technologies into John Deere's SAP, reporting and programmable logic controller (PLC) systems, says Dennis Kubica, Prime Technologies' president. Prime Technologies' Phizx Takt Management System provides the interface with SAP and AeroScout software, so that workers on the assembly floor can access the data.

The factory assembles John Deere's MaxEmerge XP row-crop planters, machines that are used by farmers to deposit a variety of seed in soils and seedbeds. At its welding station the company employs a staff of six people dedicated to replenishing materials for welders to ensure there are no delays in the welding process. The plant has about 50 welding stations, for which each has two replenishment kit carts—one to be filled at the kitting area, the other one for use at the welding station. The kitting area, where the carts of material are loaded with welding materials, is approximately 150 feet from the welding area, and therefore staff spent a great deal of time walking back and forth between the areas, looking for empty containers and refilling them accordingly.

John Deere was seeking an automated solution to improve on its manual system, opting to deploy 100 AeroScoutT2 battery-powered RFID tags. Each tag transmits a 2.4 GHz signal that can be received by Wi-Fi access points, enabling the company, O'Neal says, to use the existing Cisco Wi-Fi nodes that it had already installed throughout the facility and avoid the expense of installing RFID readers.

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