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RFID Covers Durakon's Assembly Operations

The manufacturer of cargo management and protection systems for pickup trucks uses passive RFID EPC tags to verify that it has packed the correct components into each box.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 22, 2007Durakon Industries, a maker of bed liners and other cargo management and protection systems for pickup trucks, is using passive RFID to help ensure product quality and monitor assembly operations at its Clinton, Tenn., plant.

At its factory, the company affixes 4-by-6-inch labels embedded with EPC Gen 2 RFID tags onto the underside of its new Duracover tonneau covers. The flat, lightweight plastic covers, first launched in June, fit over the beds of trucks. The RFID labels are also affixed to installation kits shipped with the Duracovers, as well as to the large boxes in which the Duracovers are packed for shipping. Gen 2-compliant interrogators from Alien Technology have been attached underneath assembly tables to scan the tags on the Duracovers, installation kits and boxes.

Joe Mawhinney
Durakon worked with systems integrator IdentiTrak, which helped the manufacturer design and test the RFID hardware and software, then carry out the implementation, says Jay Fryman, executive director for IdentiTrak. Durakon is using IdentiTrak's Masterlink Edge RFID software, built on GlobeRanger's iMotion RFID platform, a middleware layer for managing RFID devices, networks, data and processes. IdentiTrak integrated iMotion with Durakon's manufacturing and warehouse management systems, which run on an IBM AS/400 computer.

The implementation also includes a Zebra Technologies' 110Xi RFID printer-encoder, which encodes a unique ID number onto each RFID label. The device then prints the label with an associated bar code and basic product information, such as its name and associated components.

Durakon opted to use RFID to help ensure that it packaged each Duracover with the right assembly kit, says Joe Mawhinney, director of information systems for the Lapeer, Mich.-based manufacturer. "This started out as quality control," he explains. "This is one of our first boxed products, and we were having some errors. Some orders were getting out [to customers] with the wrong parts in the box."

Now, each install kit is prepackaged and tagged with an RFID label encoded with a unique ID number. That unique ID number is associated with a part number in Durakon's manufacturing and warehouse management systems.

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