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RFID Illuminates Lithuanian Lamp Manufacturer

Artilux NMF is one of the first companies in the nation to track finished products and raw materials throughout warehouse and production areas.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 24, 2010Artilux NMF, a Lithuanian and Swedish joint venture that manufactures lighting fixtures and lamps, is employing EPC RFID technology to track the movement of pallets loaded with products or raw materials at its 11,000-square-meter (118,000-square-foot) facility in Šiauliai, Lithuania. The system was provided and installed by Lithuanian automation and telecommunication systems integrator UAB Autepra, using RFID tags from UPM Raflatac on pallets loaded with its products, and reusable tags from Omnia Technologies for raw materials. The software, provided by Sprendimu idejos, integrates with the company's existing Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system.

Artilux NMF produces approximately 6 million decorative lamps and lighting fixtures each year, which are shipped on 25,000 pallets. Most are sent to distributors throughout Europe that, in turn, forward the lamps to retailers that sell lighting products. In the past, pallet tracking was performed with a system that combined the use of printed labels and paperwork, and bar-code labels on boxes and pallets.

When a pallet is loaded with boxes of lamps, an RFID label is attached to one of the boxes.

As manufactured lamps and fixtures came off the production line, they were stacked on pallets, and a red sheet of paper was placed on top. Quality-control workers would walk among the pallets, examine the products, ensure that they were complete and ready to be sent to the warehouse, and then remove the red paper to indicate that pallet had passed quality control. Employees would input data regarding the pallet's load in the company's ERP system, and staff members picking up items would then need to use bar-code scanners to scan the ID number encoded to each item's bar-code label, to record which products were loaded on the pallet or inside the box.

The system was prone to mistakes, however, with workers not always clearly or correctly indicating whether a pallet had passed quality control, or had been shipped, or if the proper pallet was being shipped at the correct time, and to the right location. Errors could be made in a multitude of ways—an item or pallet bar-code label might have been scanned, a red sheet of paper could have been placed on the wrong item (or simply be missing), and there would be no record of a pallet being inspected or moved to the warehouse.

When it came to raw materials, there were similar problems. Items such as wires and plastic components for lamp assembly arrived at the facility, then were loaded on pallets and stored in the warehouse. Bar-code labels encoded with a serial number on the pallets were scanned using a bar-code reader, to indicate the materials had been received and when they went to production, in order to update the system as to the materials' status. But workers sometimes failed to scan the labels when they were supposed to, so the company lacked a clear, accurate understanding of which materials were available in the warehouse, or whether they had already been used. Bar-code scanning was also time-consuming, because it required warehouse employees to get off their forklifts to scan each pallet's label.

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