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Gun Maker Hits the Mark with RFID

FN Manufacturing has complied with the DOD's RFID mandate by integrating RFID with its back-end systems.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 31, 2007Weapons manufacturer FN Manufacturing is using radio frequency identification to help track and manage all its shipments of guns and parts to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The Columbia, S.C., company initiated its RFID project to comply with the DOD's contractual requirement that all cases and pallets of goods received from suppliers be embedded with UHF RFID tags. It then integrated the technology with its back-end systems to make the process more efficient.

FN Manufacturing is using about 5,000 passive UHF Gen 2 tags from UPM Raflatac each month, says Ed Benincasa, vice president of IT at FN Manufacturing. The company affixes the tags to wooden crates packed with machine guns and other weapons. This implementation includes UHF Gen 2 tags from Avery Dennison, used on cases of spare parts, and Identitrak Technologies' MasterLink Edge RFID middleware. This software was designed to help companies manage RFID devices, filter and collect EPC data, comply with tagging mandates and automate business processes around RFID-enabled product tracking.

Although FN Manufacturing needed to meet the mandate in order to tag its shipments of goods with RFID, the company is doing more than affixing tags on cases and pallets before products leave the manufacturing plant. "As material comes down [production] lines," Benincasa says, "it all gets allocated to specific contracts and specific orders, and gets packed based on that."

To ensure the manufacturing operation wasn't disrupted, the company had to integrate RFID throughout the processes. That meant integrating FN Manufacturing's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with a Printronix printer-encoder to encode the RFID tags embedded in labels, then print human-readable text onto those labels. With that integration done, the company can now automatically create associations in its ERP system between a product's bar code (each gun has a bar code number), the unique ID number on the RFID label to be used on a crate (weapons are packed in wooden crates, which are similar to pallets, with the number of weapons per crate dependent on the size and shape of the weapons being packed) and sales orders.

The association is made as a factory employee scans the bar codes on the weapons to be packed, creates the RFID label and packs the crate. Once the RFID number is associated with a specific order, FN Manufacturing can automatically create advance shipping notices (ASNs), which are sent electronically to the Defense Department location receiving the order.

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