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RFID Brings Work-in-Progress Visibility to Paint Shop

Rittal is using an IdentPro UHF RFID system to identify where each product is in the paint process, receive alerts about delays and automatically order more paint based on data about each production order's status.
By Claire Swedberg

Additionally, Wack says, IdentPro would need to install the technology while production at the plant continued running normally, in order to prevent production downtime.

For the pilot, the company used a single reader and 100 hangers, each equipped with a Xerafy MicroX II RFID tag. Data was collected by IdentPro software and assessed to determine whether the reader and tags could operate in the plant's demanding environment. The results were favorable, Wack says.

Each hanger is equipped with a Xerafy MicroX II RFID tag.
The permanent RFID system was deployed with 22 IdentPro identMX readers with integrated antennas, which were installed overhead to read the unique ID number on each tag attached to a hanger. That data is interpreted by IdentPro's RFID Control Unit middleware, and is then forwarded to Rittal's SAP system so that it can determine each item's production stage.

All readers are connected via Ethernet, and the RFID Control Unit middleware that receives the read data is located on IdentPro's RFID Enterprise server. The RFID server comprises a Web-based front end for managing and monitoring the RFID readers, Wack explains, including alerting functions, implementing the business logic, and providing information to workers and the interface to Rittal's SAP system.

The products are suspended on hangers as they pass down the conveyor. Each hanger's MicroX II tag has a unique Electronic Product Code (EPC) number encoded to it, and that ID is read and married to the production number each time a new product is attached to the hanger, thereby linking that tag with that particular product. The tags are designed for on-metal applications, to be heat-resistant up to 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit) and to be rugged enough to withstand the abuse they can experience during the painting process. The same tag can be reused for another product on the same hanger.

"The MicroX II paint-shop RFID tag is specially designed for paint-shop manufacturing applications and has been widely deployed in the field for such applications with many automotive companies," says Dennis Khoo, Xerafy's CEO and founder. "For this Rittal deployment… a general high-temperature-resistant tag may not be enough to do the job. The RFID tag must be durable enough to endure many cycles of extreme temperatures, as well as withstand repeated exposures to caustic fluids."

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