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Clothing, Car-Cover Manufacturers Track Work-in-Progress via RFID

The companies are using an NFC-based system from Shopfloor to view who completed which tasks, in order to identify assembly bottlenecks, facilitate quality control and monitor worker productivity.
By Claire Swedberg

With the system, every pair of shoes is assigned a traveler—a reusable plastic NFC card that remains with its corresponding product until it is fully assembled. Each machine operator and supervisor is also assigned an NFC-enabled badge that, like the traveler, contains an RFID tag with an NTAG213 chip. The unique ID number encoded to the badge tag's memory is linked to that individual's name and work title in the Shopfloor Eye software, which resides on the company's server.

Once a pair of shoes is prepared for assembly, a traveler card is linked to that product, including the footwear's description and serial number in Shopfloor Eye. The shoes then move through a series of stations to be stitched, glued or trimmed. At each location, a worker is assigned to a specific machine. When the product arrives, the worker uses a Samsung Android-based tablet to scan the NFC tag embedded in his badge, along with the NFC tag in the traveler card. The worker then completes his work on the product, and the Shopfloor Eye software stores that event.

Shopfloor's Justin Hershoran
The software can provide that data to the company's management for historical information. This enables the firm to identify how long it takes a specific worker to complete each process.

When a pair of shoes are fully assembled, an inspector looks them over for any errors, such as a seam not having been properly glued. In the event that an error is detected, details about the flaw are input in the Shopfloor system, and pictures are taken to be stored along with the product's tag ID, after which the shoes are forwarded to another operator, who addresses such issues. Once the repair worker receives the footwear, he can read the traveler card, access the inspector's notes and pictures, and quickly complete the repair work. Without the technology, personnel often had to locate the appropriate inspector and ask him to point out the problem.

The shoe company can also use the data to identify any workers who may be repeatedly making mistakes, or when a specific machine might be causing problems. If a supervisor is required at any specific workstation—for example, to correct a machine error—that individual taps his or her card against the reader tablet at the workstation to create a record of that event as well.

In addition, the company utilizes the data provided by the software to pay its workers. Since each completed workstation task is stored with a worker's ID, she can be paid according to how many products she completed during each shift. She can also view her payment history and view the number of tasks she has completed to date on any specific day, simply by scanning her badge. The system can show her not only that information, but also how much money she has earned so far.

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