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Metal Finishing Co. Makes Monitoring Work-in-Progress More Efficient
Thanks to the newly RFID-enabled Lexmark T654 laser printer, the Wichita-based company expects to further streamline the way in which it tracks the items it tempers, plates, paints or peens.
Aug 03, 2009—Metal Finishing Co., a Wichita, Kan., metal plating and finishing firm for the aerospace and agriculture industries, will begin employing a newly released ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID encoder installed in a Lexmark T654 monochrome laser printer to track the movement of products throughout its facility. The RFID-enabled T654 printer, Metal Finishing indicates, offers flexibility other RFID printer-encoders do not yet provide, thereby enabling the firm to print multiple documents with some pages containing an adhesive RFID label, and other pages consisting of inexpensive plain paper. The device will also allow the company to dictate the RFID inlay's position on a page, as well as its orientation—either vertical or horizontal. The resulting flexibility, the company explains, will make it easier for Metal Finishing to print the combination of tags and documents it requires to track its production processes, without spending time and money printing tags on an RFID printer-encoder and printing plain documents on another printer.
Each day at its facility, which covers more than 1 million square feet of space, the company processes hundreds of orders and thousands of parts, such as bushings and landing-gear assemblies. Its customers are typically machining shops that send metal parts to Metal Finishing for the finishing work, then sell them to aerospace and agriculture customers upon receiving the completed product back from Metal Finishing.
RFID interrogators throughout the facility capture the tags' unique ID numbers as the items pass through the finishing process, not only allowing for status updates on particular orders, but also helping the company track the productivity of its operations and identify any bottlenecks. Using RFID in combination with software provided by Chicago-based American RFID Solutions (ARS), residing on the firm's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Metal Finishing has not only been able to improve the effectiveness of its finishing processes, but it can also let customers log into a special section on the firm's Web site to learn about the status of their orders. With the RFID system, a user can enter an item's tag ID number to see what process that item most recently completed, in addition to which actions remain to be taken before it is shipped.
"We had tracked everything on paper; then we evolved to a bar-code system, relying on manual scans," Babst says, describing the system the company used prior to adopting RFID in summer 2008. "That can sometimes be problematic," he adds, since bar-coded labels did not always get scanned, and manually scanning them was time-consuming.
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