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Custom Cabinetmaker Deploying RFID to Track Production

Northway Industries is employing EPC Gen 2 tags to improve managers' visibility and better identify delays, prioritize manufacturing and provide information to customers.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 02, 2008Custom wood product manufacturer Northway Industries, based in Middleburg, Pa., is using an RFID system to track the progress of its cabinets and other products as they are being manufactured. The system, designed with assistance from Atlas RFID Solutions, helps Northway track the location of an order's paperwork, enabling the company to view which stage the order has reached at any given time.

With this information, says Donald O'Hora, Northway's president and CEO, the cabinetmaker can better identify delays, prioritize manufacturing and provide information to customers. According to O'Hora, this will provide "a real-time, seamless update of work center progress without manual data collection."

Mark Brown
Northway's clients throughout the United States order custom-designed wood products, including cabinets and closets, as well as panels for use in such pieces. At the company's factory, the products go through 11 stages, including the initial order, building of the piece, shipping and billing.

To manage the process, Northway maintains folders for each order that travel through the office and manufacturing facility to various stations for each stage of the project. There are commonly 100 folders active in circulation at any given time, each with paperwork specific to that order, and additional papers related to the product's progress. Managers seeking an update on a particular order's status have had to walk through the stations manually looking for files.

In the summer of 2007, the company turned to Atlas RFID Solutions, looking for technology that would automate the system. Northway then developed its own workstation units designed to contain an RFID interrogator and antenna. According to Mark Brown, Atlas' director of solutions services, his company installed each unit's Omron RFID reader and antenna, as well as a motion detector built and integrated by Venture Research Inc., based in Plano, Texas. Atlas also provided software, Brown says.

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