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RFID Helps Morgan Thermal Ceramics Save Labor

The company has increased efficiency at its Mexico City plant, using EPC UHF passive tags and readers to track raw materials, as well as finished insulation products, prior to shipping.
By Claire Swedberg
After the plant receives raw materials, it issues an internal manufacturing order, based on the inventory stock of finished goods. To fill that order, various minerals are combined within a metal container measuring 2 meters (6.6 feet) in length and width and 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) in depth. A ShortDipole ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 passive tag, made by UPM RFID (now a division of Smartrac), is printed on a Printronix RFID tag printer-encoder, and is then placed on the mix inside the container. Information regarding that product, as well as the mix of materials that will be used to produce it, is then input and stored with the tag's RFID number in Morgan Thermal's Oracle JD Edwards ERP back-end management software.

On its way to the production area, the tag is interrogated by a fixed Alien Technology reader. That ID number is then stored in the back-end software, indicating that the mix of materials entered the production process.

TCI's Jose Manuel Zavala
Next, the material is removed from the container and placed on one of the factory's three production lines. (The tag in the container is discarded). At the end of the production line, the finished product is weighed, with the weight indicating the product type—each product type has its own unique weight, based on the material's density and size. Thus, by weighing a product, the company can record that weight, know which product it is and record its production in the JD Edwards software. An RFID tag is then printed, encoded and placed on the box in which the roll of insulation is packed. "The system now knows I've produced this amount for an order," Zavala explains, and that information is added to an inventory of specific offers available to customers.

Morgan Thermal Ceramics' employees place boxes on pallets, measuring 2.5 meters by 2.5 meters by 2.5 meters (8.2 feet by 8.2 feet by 8.2 feet) when loaded with 50 cartons. The loaded pallet is shrink-wrapped, and is then moved to the warehouse via forklift truck. Each of three forklift trucks has a Noax Technologies onboard computer terminal equipped with an RFID reader. The interrogator captures the ID numbers encoded to the boxes' tags and forwards those IDs to the software, which connects each number to a specific product and lists the goods on the Noax screen for the operator. The RFID application also determines the best warehouse location for the product, and instructs the operator where to place the pallet. Once finished with a delivery, the driver presses the touch screen to indicate that the process is complete, and the RFID application and JD Edwards software are updated to show where the product has been stored.

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