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Italian Stone Company Carves Out Savings With RFID

Antolini Luigi & Co. estimates that using EPC Gen 2 tags to track blocks and slabs reduces its labor costs by 40 percent, and improves inventory accuracy by 80 percent.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 13, 2010Antolini Luigi & Co. S.p.A., an Italian producer and distributor of granite, marble and other stone products, is using RFID to track the manufacture and location of the 900,000 slabs of polished stone it sells each year, as well as the large blocks of rock from which the slabs are cut. The finished products are sold to a global network of distributors, and many end up being used as flooring or countertops in high-end interiors for luxury hotels or homes.

The system, which uses customized UHF EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags, allows the company to determine its inventory with 80 percent more accuracy than before it used RFID and makes it easier for employees to locate the finished slabs—some of which are worth up to €10,000. The company also estimates that using RFID to track and trace its products within its facility reduces its labor costs by 40 percent, since many of the steps that used to be manual—such as counting inventory and generating reports—are now automated.

When a large block of unfinished material arrives at the company's factory in Verona, Italy, a label in the European standard A4 size (slightly larger than a U.S. 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper) is attached, with an adhesive, to the slab. The label is covered in a waterproof material so that it can withstand exposure to weather and the dust and vibrations inside industrial stone-cutting machinery. Encoded to the passive UHF Gen 2 tag embedded in the label is a unique alphanumeric ID number used to identify the slab during each phase of its processing.

When the large block is ready to be processed, it is positioned in front of a cutting machine, where a Feig Electronic LRU2000 EPC Gen 2 reader is mounted, with its antennas positioned to capture the ID number encoded to the tag. The reader captures this code and sends it to a software application developed by the project system integrator F.C.S. Solutions. This software sends the ID number to Antolini's production management system, which tracks all of the slab production at the plant.

At the company's cutting machine, an RFID antenna is positioned to capture the ID number encoded to a stone block's EPC Gen 2 tag.

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