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RFID Brings Visibility to Water and Snow Sports Company

The manufacturer has achieved an increase in productivity and a reduction in shipping errors for its surfboards and snowboards, by tracking each item via an RFID system from EPC Solutions Taiwan as it moves through each process.
By Claire Swedberg

Early this year, Chen says, EPC Solutions helped the company to embed passive UHF RFID tags directly into each product. The tags are thus invisible and can remain with a product even after it is sold, though the tags are not read after an item leaves the facility. To read those tags onsite, the firm installed Alien Technology ALR-9900+ overhead fixed readers, along with four ceiling antennas above the gate where goods enter and leave the facility's warehouse. The company also installed a Zebra Technologies HLR-E300 fixed reader with a customized patch antenna at each workstation, in order to detect products arriving at and then leaving that station.

In addition, EPC Solutions built an RFID reading cabinet that captures high-volume reads of goods as they are loaded onto carts. The company's software is integrated with its own management software, and data resides on a dedicated local server. With the new technology in place, every employee is provided with an RFID-enabled ID card. The card's RFID tag enables the system to know where an individual is working, or where he or she was most recently located when within range of an RFID reader.

As each new product is manufactured, a UHF RFID tag is built in between the layers of foam comprising that product. The unique ID number on its tag is linked to data about the item being built, as well as the customer order it fulfills, in EPC Solutions' software residing on the company's own server.

The product next moves through the cutting, printing, lamination and packing stations. At each location, the reader captures the tag's unique ID as it arrives at the work station, then transmits that data via a cabled connection to the software, thereby updating the product's assembly status. The tag ID is linked to the time at which it was located at that station, as well as the ID number of the employee working on that product. When the item leaves that workstation, the reader no longer reads its tag ID and the software thus updates its status to indicate that the process is complete.

The software calculates the length of time that the item spent at each location. If the software determines the product has dwelled at a specific station for too long, an alert can be issued to management to indicate a potential slowdown in production. Managers can then contact the specific worker whose badge ID was captured from that workstation.

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