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Bosch Earns Fast ROI From RFID

The company is using RFID-tagged kanban cards to replenish parts for production lines that make diesel fuel injectors.
By Rhea Wessel
In Homburg, Bosch is employing Feig Electronic UHF readers and UPM Raflatac tags capable of near-field and far-field reading. At both locations—where the process is essentially the same—Bosch utilizes a total of 2,000 to 3,000 RFID tags that are laminated onto the printed kanban cards generated by the SAP system, Dobler says.

The automotive supplier selected SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure (AII) software module to integrate data collected via RFID and noFilis' CrossTalk Control Center software, which manages the RFID readers used in the application. Bosch has already deployed a total of 80 interrogators. When the implementation is completely installed in Bamberg and Homburg, the company intends to use a total of 200 readers for the kanban cards.

According to Dobler, both the UHF and HF systems have been functioning without problems, though Bosch has slowed down the rollout, given the global financial crisis and the drastic reduction of unit sales in the automotive industry, which has put suppliers around the world under intense pressure to lower their costs. However, he says, the application will continue to be implemented, albeit at a slower pace than had originally been planned.

At production sites outfitted with radio frequency identification, the work process has not changed. Employees emptying a container of parts into a production machine take the RFID-tagged kanban card off the container and place it into a specially built mailbox-like container with a built-in RFID reader and antenna. This is the first read point for the cards. Upon placing the cards into the box, a worker sees a green light indicating their RFID tags were successfully read. The system then orders replenishment parts. The CrossTalk software manages communication between the interrogators and the local server running the SAP application.

At different intervals throughout the workday, another employee collects cards from all of the mailboxes. The cards are then brought to the receiving area where ordered parts arrive. In that location, workers match kanban cards to the newly delivered parts bins, either by visually comparing the number printed on each kanban card with that on the container of parts, or by reading the bar codes on both.

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