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RFID Data Helps Power Schneider Electric's Smart Factory

The company is inviting customers and partners to view its IoT solution that employs data from RFID, as well as augmented and virtual reality systems, to monitor the status of production and supplies, capture analytics regarding work-in-progress and boost efficiency.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 17, 2019

Energy technology company Schneider Electric has launched its first smart factory, located in Lexington, Ky., to enable the sharing of data and analytics across its departments using a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The firm's IoT-based EcoStruxure architecture captures and visualizes data from multiple technologies, including augmented reality, human machine interfaces, programmable logic controllers and connected technologies, such as passive HF RFID.

The Lexington facility's EcoStruxure Advisor solution analyzes the information and shares it across the plant's departments. According to the company, last year's rollout of the system has driven digitalization across its existing installations. The firm claims this digitalization reduces production downtime, improves efficiency and decreases energy consumption.

Some of the technologies, including the RFID system, have been in use for years, but Schneider Electric had completed the integration of the technologies into its EcoStruxure solution as of November 2018. The company is now sharing its system and experience with customers that are interested in creating their own smart-factory solutions.

The RFID portion of Schneider's smart factory was initially deployed to automate the paint process for its products. Since being taken live in 2009, the RFID system, known as OsiSense, has eliminated 128 miles of daily forklift driving—which was required with the non-automated process—and has also reduced work-in-progress (WIP) inventory cost by $500,000, the firm reports. That enabled the company to gain a 33 percent return on its investment within less than a year, according to Mike Labhart, Schneider's innovation leader for supply chain performance in North America. In fact, he says, the technology increased painting capacity and also enabled production automation such as robotic loading and unloading.

Now, the company has centralized the capture of RFID data with its other smart-factory systems in a single solution to improve data management. The facility's central, cloud-based, digitized solution can display WIP and supply levels in the paint process, as well as other manufacturing operations. The Lexington factory is more than 60 years old, but it is a highly modern, automated operation that produces nearly 1.3 million load centers and about 800,000 safety switches annually.

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