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RFID Has Good Chemistry for Polymer Management

Polish chemical company Grupa Azoty is planning its deployment options after piloting UHF RFID technology from ProxiGroup to manage the status and locations of its bagged products as they are packaged and then transported into zones.
By Claire Swedberg

The pilot was intended "to show what possibilities of process improvement and work optimization RFID gives," says Alexsandra Sekowska, ProxiGroup's COO and cofounder. ProxiGroup worked with Grupa Azoty throughout the course of several months of planning and mapping out zones for the pilot, while deploying the system took only about a week. The RFID solution had to overcome several challenges: the tags needed to be read effectively on a metallic bag, while ProxiGroup also needed to create a unique RFID number for each bag that would be linked to the company's existing numbering system for product identification by serial and lot number.

Grupa Azoty opted to conduct the pilot on one of the company's two production lines. The line employed for the pilot produces up to 150 bags of product, each stored and transported on a single pallet. During the pilot, bagged products are tagged as they come off the production line. Each tag ID is linked to data about a particular product, including its date and time of production and the quality of the polyamide, in ProxiGroup's software, which is hosted on a dedicated server.

"We used the LAN version," Shull says, based on the company's requests, though the system can also be provided as a hybrid LAN-cloud, or complete agnostic cloud-based system. The product is assigned to a specific location within one of the warehouses, and that data is synchronized in the virtual "digital double" zone in the software. For the pilot, RFID reader gates were installed in two buildings. One building was the warehouse in which production was taking place. A reader gate at the entrance and exit to that site enabled the system to detect when each tagged product was removed or a new product was introduced in the second warehouse.

At the second warehouse, where goods were stored, the team created four zones in a portion of that building. Each zone holds approximately 25 metric tons (27.6 U.S. tons) of product. Another reader detected tags as they passed through the entrance via a thoroughfare connecting the buildings. The readers were made by Alien Technology. As tagged items come off the production line, the software identifies each item produced, as well as when it leaves the building in which it was made, when it enters the warehouse and the zone in which it is placed. The system can also detect when the item is removed.

Staff members are equipped with tablet computers that can access the software, enabling them to view which items are located within each zone. They can use handheld readers; ProxiGroup provides readers from CipherLab and Zebra Technologies.

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