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German Screw Supplier Keeps Tabs on Product Bins via RFID

Reyher is utilizing passive 13.56 MHz tags to track the reusable containers it uses to ship nuts, bolts and other fasteners to companies all over the world.
By Rhea Wessel
Mar 19, 2007A leading German supplier of screws, structural bolts and nuts and other fasteners and fastening technology is employing RFID to manage the supply of empty containers the company uses to fulfill orders and ship hundreds of thousands of small parts to its customers.

Reyher, a 120-year-old company based in Hamburg, Germany, offers more than 90,000 fastening products, shipped from its warehouse in a suburb of the northern German port city. To manage all those parts and fulfill each customer's order, Reyher uses about 300,000 plastic bins of different sizes and colors. Each bin is assigned to a specific customer and designed to hold specific items. The RFID technology, which Reyher first began testing in 2005, is designed to help track those bins within its warehouse. Reyher wanted to have a more accurate way of determining how many, and which, containers were available at any given time. Before the project started, Reyher was not tracking any empty bins at all. Today, Reyher has RFID-tagged 3,000 bins for three different customers. The company uses passive 13.56 MHz tags supplied by Rako Security Label. The tags comply with the ISO 15693 air-interface standard.

Reyher has tagged 3,000 plastic bins for shipping fasteners.
Reyher worked with UCS Industrieelektronik, an industrial electronics services provider it has used on other projects, to design, develop and implement the RFID technology.

"We wanted to gain experience with RFID and play a leadership role with the technology," says Norbert Schmidt, a manager of the project at Reyher. He adds that the company specifically chose a simple application for its first project in order to ease the learning curve.

Reyher already uses lean manufacturing processes to automatically replenish customers' orders. Lean manufacturing is a methodology that attempts to drive waste out of manufacturing processes by employing such tactics as just-in-time inventory to ensure goods arrive for production when needed rather than ending up as inventory, and kanban, the Japanese term for signal, which establishes a "pull" instead of "push" system of moving goods through the factory. At a Reyher's customer site, for example, when a bin of screws is emptied, a worker pulls a kanban card out of the kanban pocket on the side of the bin and scans the card's bar code to trigger a new order of those screws. The order is created in the customer's warehouse management system (WMS), which triggers a request for replenishment in Reyher's order management system. The empty bin is then sent back to Reyher via a logistics company.

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