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How Is RFID Being Implemented in the Granite Industry?

Posted By RFID Journal, 10.26.2011
Are there many businesses in that sector that are utilizing the technology?

—Name withheld

———
There are a few companies in the granite and stone industry that are employing radio frequency identification. Mainly, these firms are tracking raw slabs moving from a quarry through the cutting and polishing processes, and then on to shipment to customers.

For example, Bresciana Graniti, an Italian supplier of marble and granite, has implemented RFID to track and trace stone slabs from the time they arrive at its factory until their delivery to a customer. Each tagged slab of marble or granite is photographed, and the photos are linked together with the tag's unique ID number, in the company's information system (see Italian Stone Supplier Uses RFID to Track Marble, Granite).

Minera Norge , a Norwegian company that manufactures slate tiles, blocks and related products for roofing, flooring and other applications, won the 2010 RFID Journal Award for Best Implementation, for its use of the technology to track heavy, tough-to-move loads within one of the world's harshest weather environments (see 2010 RFID Journal Award for Best RFID Implementation: Minera Norge, 2010 RFID Journal Award for Best RFID Implementation: Minera Norge (Part 2) and 2010 RFID Journal Award: Minera Norge Takes RFID to the Arctic Edge). The company's main production site and 20,000-square-meter (215,280-square-foot) storage yard are located in Oppdal, Norway—an alpine town that can make other frosty cities, such as Minneapolis and Juneau, seem almost tropical by comparison.

The challenging setting, as well as more conventional business demands, created a need for Minera Norge to quickly and accurately track slate-bearing pallets at its production facility, in order to identify products in all weather conditions, view accurate stock inventory data in real time, speed production and shipping processes, and eliminate shipping errors caused by product misidentification.

The RFID system enables Minera Norge to quickly identify individual products under all weather conditions. It also allows the company to track products in real time, maintain an accurate inventory count without any human intervention, and expedite warehousing and shipping. The firm's managers are updated automatically when production work on each pallet is completed, thereby clearing the way for that order to be released to storage or shipping. Forklift operators are also notified automatically that a pallet is ready to be picked up from the production area and moved to a long- or short-term holding area.

Antolini Luigi & Co. S.p.A., an Italian producer and distributor of granite, marble and other stone products, is using RFID to track the manufacture and location of the 900,000 slabs of polished stone that it sells annually, as well as the large blocks of rock from which those slabs are cut (see Italian Stone Company Carves Out Savings With RFID). The finished products are sold to a global network of distributors, and many end up being used as flooring or countertops in high-end interiors for luxury hotels or homes.

The system, which utilizes customized ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags, allows the company to determine its inventory with 80 percent more accuracy than before it used RFID, and also makes it easier for employees to locate the finished slabs—some of which are worth up to €10,000 ($14,000). The firm also estimates that utilizing RFID to track and trace its products within its facility reduces its labor costs by 40 percent, since many of the steps that were previously manual—such as counting inventory and generating reports—are now automated.

In addition, RFID is being used at quarries. Construction-materials firm Graniterock deployed an RFID system to improve service at its quarries, and to collect data regarding inventory and supply movement (see RFID Rocks at Graniterock). Prior to the company's use of RFID, a customer's truck would drive into a quarry and onto a scale for pre-load weighing. The driver would tell a Graniterock worker (at the gate leading to the scale) the specific customer for whom he or she was hauling the rock, and to which particular construction job that material was headed.

The worker would then enter that information, along with the truck's weight, into a computer. After the vehicle was loaded with rock, the driver would again drive onto the scale for a weight measurement. The attendant would then enter the information into a computer before sending the driver on his or her way. That process was error-prone, however, and often painstakingly slow. RFID helped to speed things up, thereby reducing bottlenecks at the quarry and improving customer loyalty.

These are the main applications of radio frequency identification that we've seen taking place in the granite and stone industry.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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