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Crown Saves Manufacturing Costs via RFID

The lift truck maker says the new system enforces more discipline among factory workers when it comes to checking out and restocking tools.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 10, 2006Crown Equipment, a manufacturer of electric lift trucks, saves $200 to $300 per day on costs associated with lost and unrestocked tools, thanks to an RFID portal that tracks the movement of items from drill bits to rubber gloves. Crown installed its first WinWare CribMaster Accu-Port at the tool crib—akin to a moveable closet for tools—at its New Bremen, Ohio facility (one of its five manufacturing plants) in June. The system been so successful that the manufacturer installed a second portal at the same site this month. Crown's supervisor, Brenda Hughes, says the company hopes to have 10 portals throughout its five facilities by 2010.

At the New Bremen plant, production is underway 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, it's too costly to have a crib supervisor manage the allocation of the plant's 10,000 tools for each shift. Before implementing the Accu-Port, employees loaded tools they thought they might need onto carts, which they then rolled onto the production floor. There was no accountability as to which personnel took any particular tools, the majority of which are disposable, nor was every tool taken actually used during a shift.

Kelly Mahan
Furthermore, employees who couldn't find a tool would often place a card in a box on the cart, indicating it needed to be reordered—even though that tool might actually be in stock somewhere on the floor, but not immediately locatable. As a result of such frequent reordering, the company wound up with an inventory surplus.

The CribMaster Accu-Port allows the company to track which personnel took which tools from the crib. It provides a physical portal into a wire tool crib, where tools are hung; the portal has an antenna above the door and one on each side. About 70 to 80 employees need access to tools during any given shift. Each one carries a badge embedded with a Gen 2 UHF RFID tag.

An employee who wants to access the crib much access a touch-screen computer attached to the portal, enterring either the description or ID number of a specific tool to find its location in the crib. The worker then walks through the portal, where the RFID interrogator recognizes the unique ID number in that person's badge, causing the crib door to unlock automatically.

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