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RFID Helps Continental Clean Up Its Operations

The automotive parts supplier is using passive HF tags to make sure components are properly cleaned prior to assembly, helping to speed production flow and improve quality.
By Rhea Wessel
Apr 03, 2008At its plant in Roding, Germany, automotive supplier Continental AG has replaced its card-based kanban system with RFID. The company is using the RFID system to track components from the time they are removed from shelves in its warehouse until they are assembled in a clean room.

Before the automotive supplier assembles high-pressure pumps and other mechanical parts, many components must be cleaned in industrial washing machines since every fleck of dust can cause problems in an engine. For quality purposes, Continental Mechanical Components (CMC) Germany—the Continental subsidiary that operates the plant—must be able to identify all components in each batch and recount the production steps.

CMC attached four passive 13.56 MHz tags to each of its 6,000 metal bins, used for transporting parts through the washing system.

A high percentage of the components used in production at the plant must be washed; a smaller percentage, on the other hand, may not be washed under any circumstances. Workers previously used a kanban system to track and plan the pre-production steps for components, given detailed cleaning instructions for individual lots, the variety of metal cage-like bins used to carry the parts and the variety of wash settings for the washing machines. However, says Juergen Bauer, CMC's RFID project manager, this led to mistakes and reams of handwritten lists and notes.

At the end of 2005, CMC (then known as Siemens VDO Mechanical Components GmbH) implemented the RFID system, which became operational about one year later. The company sought to speed the flow of production by cutting down on manual tracking, while also simplifying the process of assembling components for custom-ordered batches and improving production monitoring and quality. RFID software developer NoFilis served as the integrator for the project, supplying much of the software, including CrossTalk 2.0, an RFID device manager to which all of the stationary readers and PDAs in the application are connected.

Before the system was implemented, workers picked components from warehouse shelves based on a printed list, then placed the components through the specified wash programs, using plastic boxes to move the parts to the washing machines. They then placed the goods into metal carriers designed for the washing machines, which move these bins through the machines on belts much like a carwash propels cars through its facility.

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