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RFID Illuminates Work-in-Progress for Neonlite

The manufacturer of Megaman lightbulbs and lamps is using passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags at its plant to manage production, as well as monitor inventory and shipments.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 17, 2009Hong Kong energy-saving lightbulb manufacturer Neonlite Electronic & Lighting (maker of Megaman products distributed in more than 80 countries worldwide) is employing radio frequency identification and its own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage product manufacturing, inventory and shipment at one of its four manufacturing plants. The system—installed in January 2009 at its plant in Xiamen, China, and provided by software company Infor—utilizes RFID hardware from Intermec Technologies to track work-in-progress as trays of parts used to make the lamps move through the assembly line. GlobeRanger provided software for the deployment.

"Over the years, Neonlite has developed a wide range of energy-saving lighting products to meet different customer needs," says David Fan, the company's senior group IT and systems operations manager, "as well as play a part in keeping the environment green." Neonlite, he notes, is one of the fastest-growing firms in the lighting market. As business has expanded, so too has the manufacturing facility. To target all of this growth, Fan says, Neonlite decided to create a single, integrated management system through which it could gain visibility into inbound logistics, parts management and work-in-process.

David Fan
"While most RFID applications are used for supply chain or finished goods," Fan explains, "Neonlite uses RFID within the entire production environment to improve the production material traceability and real-time inventory."

Neonlite had already been utilizing Infor's ERP Syteline warehouse management software to manage inbound parts and their consumption on the manufacturing floor. The new RFID system provides the company with greater visibility of its existing system, and extends that visibility through the manufacturing process by tagging trays—used to carry and assemble parts and finished products—and by tracking the trays' movement around the plant and warehouse. Prior to the RFID system's deployment, employees filled out transaction slips when parts were received or products were shipped, then entered that data into the ERP system.

With the RFID system, parts are loaded onto trays fitted with Intermec passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags operating at 900 MHz. To indicate a tray has been filled and is ready to be taken to an assembly station, a worker uses an Intermec handheld RFID interrogator to read the tray's tags. Each tag is then read once more as the tray passes an RFID portal (containing an Intermec IF5 fixed reader) on its way to the manufacturing floor, or into the warehouse for storage. The portal includes a motion detector that prompts the interrogator when a tagged tray approaches, at which time the reader begins interrogating the tag.

As the tagged tray of parts passes from one work-in-progress phase to the next (often at a separate workstation), its tag is read via a handheld interrogator to update its status. Management can use the Infor SCM Warehouse Management software, integrated into the firm's ERP system, to view the tray's exact location and determine how long it has been there. Once assembly is complete, the finished lightbulbs are packed in tagged cartons and loaded on tagged pallets. The items then pass RFID portals several more times before shipment.

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