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Plastics Company Prevents Errors With RFID

Aurora Plastics has adopted a system from Quest Integrated Solutions, using Janam hardware, that not only helps prevent costly mistakes in the process of off-loading plastic resin, but also improves rail-yard management.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 02, 2018

Thermoplastic compounds company Aurora Plastics has boosted its resin-unloading and yard-management efficiency, while also preventing unloading errors, by deploying a radio frequency identification solution provided by Quest Integrated Solutions, a division of Technology Recovery Group (TRG). The system employs RFID reader hardware supplied by Janam Technologies.

Founded in 1997 and based in Streetsboro, Ohio, Aurora Plastics develops and manufactures polymer compounds customized for a variety of applications, such as building and construction, recreational, automotive, wire and cable, hose and tube, batteries and footwear. The firm manufactures rigid and flexible PVC compounds, thermoplastic elastomers, custom thermoplastic olefins, CPE alloys, PVC-acrylic alloys, low-smoke zero-halogenated compounds, flame-retardant concentrates, SBS and SEBS compounds, and PVC and TPE cellular foam compounds.

A screenshot of the software running on FactoryTalk Studio
Aurora Plastics operates five compound manufacturing sites, including the Streetsboro facility and three others in Welcome, N.C, Lunenburg, Mass., and Marieville, Quebec. The company, which has grown since its founding, now sells its plastic compounds across the United States and Canada, as well as in export markets. Its largest facility is in Streetsboro, where it makes products using different types of PVC resins that come in daily via rail, to be loaded into onsite dedicated resin silos. Each year, the firm unloads more than 100 million pounds of PVC resin from railcars at its Streetsboro plant.

The process of unloading resin into the proper silo has the potential for error, however, says Seth Scott, Aurora Plastics' assistant plant manager, and a single mistake could be costly. If even a small amount of resin were transferred to the wrong silo, all product in that silo—up to 200,000 pounds—would be rendered unusable. Therefore, historically, a great deal of manual effort was required to ensure the right product was stored in the proper silo, including cross-referencing a railcar's ID number and the product it should be carrying.

To bring visibility into the railcars and the products they carry as they enter and leave the yard, the company began searching for an automated solution. It started working with Quest Integrated Solutions in 2016 to develop a solution, says Jack Brower, Quest's director. The companies had previously partnered to develop a custom bar-code-based solution for another operation at the plant, he notes.

Each railcar comes with an automatic equipment identification (AEI) UHF RFID tag attached on both sides, which helps freight companies identify those cars. Aurora wanted to take advantage of those tags already attached to the railcars. Scott recalls, "We thought, 'Why not utilize that technology so that it has a dual purpose?'" Quest recommended using Janam's XM2-RFID handheld reader to interrogate each railcar's tag, and to forward that ID to Quest's software (hosted on a local server), so it could then be linked to data about the car, along with the product contained within.

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