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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
Bosch experimented with a different type of mailbox for the cards during the pilot. Project partners developed what they dubbed an intelligent mailbox that accepts kanban cards only after their tags are read. If a read is impossible, the mailbox rejects the card, much like an automated payment machine rejects banknotes. Bosch is only using five of these mailboxes, however, since it determined that their higher cost was not justified by the benefit. Instead, Dobler says, the company decided it could depend on workers to make sure the green light appears each time an RFID-tagged kanban card is placed into the regular RFID mailbox.

The advantage of the HF system is that HF interrogators are less expensive than UHF readers, though HF tags tend to be more costly. On the other hand, Dobler says, the advantage of the UHF system is that cards can be read in bulk, or at a distance of up to 16 feet from an interrogator, while HF tags have a read range of just a few inches.

According to Dobler, CrossTalk helped Bosch implement systems based on two different types of technology into the company's single SAP ERP application. "We could make it irrelevant if the technology was HF or UHF and bring all the parts together," he says, adding that the implementation was a model project, given the large number of readers that needed to be configured and controlled, and the fact that numerous types of technology were used. Each Bosch location using the RFID system, he says, runs a CrossTalk software agent that controls the devices and transfers data to the central SAP system.

The two hours per day at each plant that Bosch saves on the replenishment process will bring the company a quick return on investment (ROI), Dobler says. Because of this promise of a fast ROI, the firm plans to roll out the system to a total of eight additional sites worldwide that build the same injectors. Most likely, he says, Bosch will choose to utilize HF RFID since the company desires the shorter read range of HF tags, and because HF readers are cheaper than UHF.

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