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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
The worker then moves the components to the staging area in front of the washing machines, places them in the proper type of RFID-tagged metal carrier and uses the PDA to interrogate the bin's RFID tag. The system matches the tag's unique ID number with the information about the batch that was just picked. A stationary reader installed at the belt's entrance to the washing machine then reads the carrier's tag and, with the help of CrossTalk, programs the washing machine with the appropriate wash cycle.

The system uses a total of 38 stationary interrogators at various points—usually at separation or turning points along conveyor belts, or at small portals through which workers pass bins manually. At each juncture, two readers, one on each side, interrogate the tags on the carriers before they move toward their destination. CrossTalk 2.0 activates the readers and coordinates the information they collect. If a carrier is moved to the wrong place, a red light warns staff members to refer back to the PDA for additional information.

NoFilis and CMC set up and tested the entire system before switching over to it. "We decided to go for the big bang since all the processes are linked," Bauer says, adding that it took a month of continuous training for workers to feel comfortable with the new system.

On the hardware side, CMC spent roughly €2,100 ($3,300) on each stationary reader, €2,000 ($3,100) on each PDA, €1 ($1.60) on each tag and encasement, and about €20,000 ($31,300) on server hardware to run the system. CMC says it has not yet calculated an ROI since the focus of the application is on process improvement and automation of the washing process, but Bauer estimates that the company has benefited by transferring four people to different jobs.

Since the system has been up and running, operators have only faced minor problems such as inoperable tags on carriers that were dropped, or short system outages due to a sudden lack of electricity. CMC says it and its customers are convinced of this RFID application. "Some of our customers were surprised by the system-integration level," Bauer says, "and quite pleased with the system."

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