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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

With the full deployment, a MicroX II tag is screwed onto each of the factory's 1,600 hangers, thereby ensuring that it cannot be knocked loose. When a worker attaches a product to a hanger, he or she scans the bar-coded ID number on the paper production order and reads that hanger's RFID tag. The hanger's EPC number is consequently linked to the bar-coded ID and forwarded back to the SAP software. As the product travels down the conveyor system, its hanger passes the readers, which capture the tag's EPC number. Based on that ID and the specific reader that captured it, the IdentPro software identifies the product and its location, and then forwards that data to the SAP system.

The SAP software uses the collected RFID data in multiple ways. Rittal knows not only that a production order is being filled, but also approximately when it will be finished and then ready for shipment. This information ensures that any delays are prevented, and can be shared with customers if they seek an update regarding their orders.

IdentPro's Michael Wack
In addition, by knowing how many products have passed through each phase of painting, Rittal's software can track how much paint has been used and when more must be ordered. Purchase orders for additional paint are thus automatically created, ensuring that the shop never runs out of any material during production.

Installed around the paint shop are Web-based monitors that display the IdentPro software, allowing workers to view which production orders are coming next, based on the RFID tags scanned. "Via monitors, workers are informed about actual and next production orders," Wack explains, which enables them to prepare the area for that work.

If the IdentPro software detects a delay in the paint process or the unexpected removal of a product from a hanger, the SAP system can issue an alert to the plant's managers.

"RFID proved to be the perfect solution for tracking work-in-process," Wack states. "Using a reader with integrated antenna and PoE [power-over-Ethernet] kept installation cost and effort to a minimum. Also, the system is maintenance-free, thus reducing the TCO [total cost of ownership]."

Rittal did not respond to a request for comment about the technology.

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