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Italian Textile Firms Rolls Over to RFID

Griva applies an EPC RFID tag to each roll of fabric it processes, resulting in lower labor costs, increased production and a rapid ROI.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jul 30, 2007Griva, a textile manufacturer near Turin, Italy, has turned to RFID to address inefficiencies in its work-in-progress tracking system, according to Morgan Hill, Calif., RFID hardware provider Alien Technology. Within nine months of deploying a system consisting of Alien EPC Gen 2 tags and readers, Griva achieved a return on its RFID investment, says Ronny Haraldsvik, Alien's vice president of marketing.

Workers apply a label embedded with a passive EPC Gen 2 Alien Squiggle inlay onto each core.

At its automated 1,000-square-meter factory, Griva produces approximately 300,000 rolls of fabric per year, much of it used to make flame-retardant curtains. At this facility, explains Stephen Crocker, director of channel management for Alien's European market, raw materials are woven into fabric, which is cut and rolled around durable cardboard or plastic cores. Each role of fabric is then mechanically unrolled, treated and rerolled back onto the cores at 15 separate dye and coating stations in the facility, using a completely automated system. Each roll is identified and tracked at every step in the process, employing RFID hardware made by Alien and middleware provided by Simet, an Italian RFID systems integrator and middleware provider.

Under the previous system, Griva attached bar-coded labels to the end of each core prior to the start of the treatment process. Bar-code scanners mounted along the conveyor system transporting the cores from station to station would then read each label's unique bar-code number. This would provide a work-in-progress manufacturing record, enabling Griva to track production. However, the high temperatures and industrial environment sometimes made the bar codes illegible. When a scanner failed to read a given bar code, a worker would need to manually interrogate and record the core's ID number so the fabric could be traced.

Those bar codes remaining intact throughout the manufacturing process often become difficult to read once the rolls were covered in plastic film at the final production stage, because the film obscured the clear line of sight required for the interrogators to read the bar codes. In fact, Crocker says, the automated system could read only 70 percent of the stretch-wrapped rolls.

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