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Six Sigma and the Single Tag
How do you achieve flawless read performance from your RFID system? By making sure it interrogates only one tag at a time.
The first practical action is to understand how to read one tag reliably. What are the limits—in terms of speed, distance, attenuation, orientation, interference, and so on—of your ability to read a single tag?
Once you have answered that question, you have the raw material for a successful implementation of a Six Sigma RFID system and can look forward to automation with assurance and confidence of high reliability.
"Hold on," you say. "Not so fast. That sounds too naive and simple."
I assure you, the solution really is just that simple. Once you know how to read a single tag, you can then step back a take a look at the bigger picture. This is usually referred to as a site survey and business-case analysis. The problem is, until you understand how an appropriate individual tag and reader perform in this environment, you should not do any kind of site survey and business-case analysis. As you approach the site survey, ask yourself this: What opportunity do I have for singulation? If you find, by some good fortune, that the entire application lends itself to singulation, then you already have the formula for Six Sigma RFID reliability.
Most of you will have more complicated requirements, but maybe you don't. Try to force singulation into your requirements, even as a new or reengineered process. If you can, then you have a solution for Six Sigma RFID and will be the envy of your industry.
For those who need to read further, let me provide a few examples of how this practice can be applied to current manufacturing and supply chain processes. Let's assume you have an over-the-belt application and need to read a large variety of designs of RFID labels on boxes, and that the belt runs at 600 feet per minute. I am sure you are laughing at me right now, and that your current answer is to add more and more readers in all sorts of bombastic orientations to compensate for the infinite number of orientations you imagine likely. Most likely, you are adding triggers and sensors and gauges. Rube Goldberg would be proud of you.
Yes, you will eventually catch the mouse, but if you have ignored singulation, I cannot warrant that you will ever have reliability, much less Six Sigma reliability
At this point, I want to show why RFID is better than bar coding, as I am afraid I may have turned you off by now. If you apply the same singulation principal to bar codes, you will still have the same problem—that the laser must find the bar code, and the bar code optics are limiting. The performance level of modern cameras is unbelievably high, but even if you move to a camera, you will still have endless problems, including maintenance of the optics.
If you are still unconvinced that singulation-base RFID deployment will yield Six Sigma results, here are three case studies:
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