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Internorm Finds RFID Does Windows

The Austrian window and door manufacturer is using RFID to track containers of its products as they move between the company's three production facilities.
By Rhea Wessel
Feb 18, 2008Austrian manufacturing company Internorm is using RFID to track containers of the doors and windows it makes as they move between its three production facilities. The system enabled Internorm to eliminate the manual processes it employed to track containers, and the errors those processes could cause. It also helps the firm get more use out of its containers, as well as double-check the accounting work of the external trucking companies it hires to move goods among its sites in Traun, Sarleinsbach and Lannach, and among its sales partners.

Internorm does not sell directly to consumers; rather, about 1,000 sales partners and dealers purchase more than 900,000 doors and windows each year, many of which are made to order. The manufacturer uses a just-in-time production process to keep inventory low and to improve quality, since every move of a door or window can potentially damage it. The company sends out its wares in 800 containers that usually return to the factories within a month after shipment.

At the point of manufacture, the company applies a bar-coded label to every window and door it makes. Each label is encoded with a unique serial number associated in a database with a description of that item. Before loading windows and doors into the containers, workers scan their bar codes so that the logistics planning software is updated regarding which items are being shipped in which particular containers.

Before the firm installed its RFID system, workers manning its gates had to manually write down which containers departed or entered a facility. Other workers then typed these handwritten notes into the database, providing an overview of the location of vehicles, containers and goods.

In 1999, Internorm began seeking a better solution, according to Alexander Stroh, the company's RFID project manager, who is in charge of shipping and logistics. "We wanted to know which truck brought us which containers," Stroh explains, "so we could trace any damages to the containers back to the trucking company or the customer which kept them at its premises." In some cases, he notes, trucking companies would claim to have delivered a specific container they had not actually delivered.

The following year, Internorm installed the current system, which uses semi-passive 2.4 GHz RFID tags containing a Siemens chip. Each plastic-encased tag contains a battery guaranteed to work five years, though Stroh says most have run for seven. The system, provided and installed ID Systems, includes 800 tags and two readers installed at each location's gates. One interrogator is set to read tags on inbound containers, the other on outbound containers. All are mounted on posts about 1.3 meters high and protected from snow and rain via a plastic enclosure.

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