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Active RFID Tracks Kit Carts Through Assembly

The system links each loaded cart as the kit is assembled, then is staged for shipping, shipped to the assembly plant and received, thereby reducing the amount of time workers previously spent searching for missing carts required for assembly.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 02, 2017

Wave Reaction has developed a solution that marries bar codes or passive radio frequency identification with active RFID technology, in order to enable manufacturers to track kitting carts and the components on those carts as they are moved from one facility to another, and throughout the assembly the process.

The system, known as the Wave Reusables Kit Cart Solution, has been used by one heavy equipment manufacturer for approximately one year, according to Wave Reaction, and has reduced the costs related to kitting cart loss by 83 percent. The manufacturer has asked to remain unnamed. Wave Reaction is currently in discussions with several automobile manufacturers that aim to use the technology as well.

A rack with a Wave Reaction tag at the bottom left
For the past decade or more, Wave Reaction, located in Galena., Ill., has offered its customers solutions to track the movements of reusable containers between their facilities or from suppliers. The technology is used as an inventory-management system to ensure that containers can be accounted for. Wave Reaction makes its own active RFID tags and adapts hardware from a variety of RFID reader vendors, according to its clients' needs.

More recently, says Charlie Daoud, Wave Reaction's development director, the company has been providing the RFID technology and software to manage a kanban system of parts or materials used at manufacturing sites. In addition, Daoud says, one of the company's largest customers—which makes heavy equipment—asked if Wave Reaction could provide a solution that would not only track the reusable kitting carts that move from a kitting facility to product assembly, at a separate location, but also link each cart to the items loaded onto it.

The Wave Reaction solutions are tailored around three concepts, Daoud says: communication, automation and translation. When it comes to communication, he explains, a solution needs to help all parties understand the same information. By automating the collection of data, the system eliminates the need for tribal knowledge from personnel at each point at which a cart is handled. Translation consists of presenting information to each separate party in a way that is intuitive. "Our software is scalable," Daoud states, "so we can make small changes to the software," so that users can interact with information in the way they want.

Traditionally, Daoud says, the equipment manufacturer, like many such companies, had to rely on the organizational skills and methods of multiple parties who may handle a given cart. For instance, one individual builds the cart with the appropriate components at a kitting site, and the cart is managed at a staging area where it is shipped on a truck and then sent to the assembly site. At that site, it may be unloaded immediately, or it may sit in short-term storage.

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