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Pilot Aims to Prove Passive RTLS Success for Manufacturing Site

RTV Engineering has built a solution leveraging RF Controls' overhead reader and antenna system to track the locations of a manufacturer's bins of materials as they are stacked seven bins high on metal racks, thereby enabling the company to know where its components and materials are located in real time.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 06, 2019

RFID solutions company RTV Engineering has built a system that is being piloted by a manufacturing company to identify, locate and track, in 3D, the locations of bins stacked on two rows of metal racks facing each other across an aisle in real time, using passive RFID. The manufacturer has asked to remain unnamed. The system allows the company to identify where particular bins are located within a few feet, and to thereby better understand its inventory of assets and supplies, as well as where they can be found and when they need to be replenished.

The solution consists of RF Controls' overhead passive real-time location system (RTLS) UHF reader and phased array antennas, as well as UHF RFID tags from multiple vendors on bins, according Robert Veiga, RTV Engineering's CEO. "RF Controls developed the technology while RTV integrated it into a solution," he explains.

RF Controls' overhead reader, suspended from a ceiling
RTV is a systems integration company located in Cheyenne, Wyo., under leadership that has a long history with active RTLS and RFID. Veiga originated at Savi Technology and Lockheed Martin as a systems engineer and a senior technical sales manager before launching RTV in 2010. Joe Leone, who recently left Lowry Solutions after building its Sonario IoT platform, also has a deep background with RFID, including work at Savi. He joined the RTV team six months ago to develop the company's Site Director middleware platform that would enable the quick integration of RF Controls' hardware and operating system with an RTV enterprise solution.

Most of the company's customers are large manufacturing facilities with challenging use cases, Veiga says. "We tend to get the more complex jobs," Veiga states, for which standard RFID solutions may not work. The latest such project—the first RTV installation to employ RF Controls readers—consists of tracking supplies as they are shelved, stored and consumed by a global manufacturer.

The system is being piloted with 200 of the company's 15,000-plus material bin storage compartments at a single test area within the warehouse. Two rows of racks face each other across an 11-foot-wide aisle. They extend 75 to 100 feet in length and can be as much as 28 feet in height. Most of the bins stored in those racks measure 48 inches by 44 inches. Once the pilot is completed this fall, the solution may be expanded to other facilities around the world.

RTV focuses on providing its customers with turnkey solutions that can be easily deployed, with computing accomplished at the edge. "We use real-time, event-driven data to make time-sensitive decisions," Leone says, which can enable companies to trigger a PLC to respond to sensor data, or to generate events based on an item's location. What is being tracked can vary from small components and materials, bins and totes to large rolls of coiled steel and tanker trucks.

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