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RFID Helps Metal Products Maker Track Tool, Supply Usage

Industrial supply distributor Bassett deployed an EPC Gen 2 system that lets its manufacturing customer cut costs and improve record-keeping.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 12, 2007Industrial supply distributor Bassett Industrial, located in Portland, Ore., is leveraging RFID to help one of its customers better manage supply inventory in its manufacturing operations.

Bassett provides a variety of tools and supplies—including abrasives, cutting tools, band-saw blades and safety gear—to a number of manufacturers. The distributor offers its customers WinWare's CribMaster Accu-Port, an RFID-enabled solution that includes UHF Gen 2 RFID tags, RFID portals and inventory management software designed to help its customer track employees' use of supplies and tools during production. By more accurately tracking supplies, manufacturers can reduce the amount of inventory on hand—rather than carrying additional inventory (at a cost) in case it might be needed, they can more closely watch inventory levels and stock only the amounts required. In addition, tracking which items are removed from inventory, and by whom, helps manufacturers monitor which department or job uses which items.

Bassett will install and manage the inventory management software and related RFID hardware for its customers that opt for it. The firm has implemented a custom version of CribMaster at one of its customers, a metal products manufacturer, for which Bassett provides supplies and manages the inventory of those supplies. The customer asked not to be identified, says John Lottis, VP of Bassett.

"CribMaster offers great inventory control," Lottis says. The CribMaster software, combined with RFID, facilitates the tracking of inventory without having to employ tool room attendants or others to manually track supplies removed from inventory. Additionally, the RFID-enabled inventory management system frees employees from having to log those supplies they are utilizing. "It offers ease for people at the plant level to get their products and go back to work, without having to deal with attendants, checkout or self-issuing," Lottis says. "The RFID captures all the transactional data automatically."

Bassett has installed four CribMaster Accu-Port RFID portals at the metals manufacturer's multi-acre facility, and is in the process of installing a fifth, which Lottis says will be up and running by the end of March. Each Accu-Port has been customized to meet the customer’s needs and provides a physical portal into a storeroom, or crib, where supplies are kept. The portal has an antenna above the door and another on each side. Every item inside the storeroom has an EPC Gen 2 passive tag, and each tag's unique ID number has been correlated with the item name and other information in the CribMaster inventory management software.

To remove an item, an employee passes the portal, which identifies that person by reading the EPC Gen 2 tag affixed to the employee's hard hat. A LAN connection communicates the tag data to the CribMaster software, ensuring that employee is authorized to access the crib. If that person is approved, the storeroom door unlocks. After gathering the materials needed, the employee exits the crib and walks through the portal again, which reads those items' tags once more. That data is then passed along to the CribMaster software as well.

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