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RFID Business Applications

Radio frequency identification can be used in many different ways to create value. Here are the most common ways businesses are using RFID today.
By Bob Violino
RFID has been used in manufacturing plants for more than a decade. It's used to track parts and work in process and to reduce defects, increase throughput and manage the production of different versions of the same product.

Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee, Wisc.-based suppler of car and truck interiors, has to supply seats, dashboards and other components to the big three automakers where the automakers want it, when they want it. Johnson Controls installed a 13.56 MHz system to track the various types of car and truck seats it supplies. The system has proved to be 99.9 percent accurate (subscribers, see Perfecting Just-In-Time Production).

AM General's Hummer
Boeing has been using a 915 MHz system at it Wichita, Kansas, facility to track parts as they arrive, and as they move from one shop to another within the facility. In the past, bar codes associated with parts had to be scanned manually when a part went to an area where, say, it needed a special chemical treatment. Then it had to be scanned out again. If a part wasn't scanned, the company lost track of it. Now RFID tags track the movement of parts automatically, reducing errors and the need to have people look for parts needed on the manufacturing line (subscribers, see Boeing Finds the Right Stuff).

AM General is using an active RFID system to track parts bins on at its Hummer manufacturing plant in Mishawaka, Ind. (RFID Revs Up Hummer Plant). And Club Car made RFID an integral part of its new golf cart assembly line and cut the time it takes to build each vehicle—from 88 minutes to about 46 minutes—while ensuring that each car is built to an exact specifications (Golf Car Maker Scores with RFID).

Supply Chain Management
RFID technology has been used in closed loop supply chains or to automate parts of the supply chain within a company's control for years. A Procter & Gamble distribution facility in Spain used a 13.56 MHz system to increase throughput, reduce shipping errors and cut labor costs (subscribers, see RFID Speeds P&G Plant Throughput).

Paramount Farms, which processes about 60 percent of the U.S. pistachio crop and exports its products to more than 20 countries, is relies on RFID to help automate the processing the incoming shipments of pistachios from grower partners (subscribers, see Farm Harvests RFID’s Benefits).

As standards emerge, companies are increasingly turning to RFID to track shipments among supply chain partners. Canus, a Canadian manufacturer of skin care products made from goat's milk, is using RFID to reduce the cost of checking shipments to its retail customers, and it's looking to use RFID temperature sensors to monitor the condition of products in transit (see Soap Maker Cleans Up with RFID).

Retailers such as Best Buy, Metro, Target, Tesco and Wal-Mart are in the forefront of RFID adoption. These retailers are currently focused on improving supply chain efficiency and making sure product is on the shelf when customers want to buy it (see Wal-Mart Lays Out RFID Roadmap).

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