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AL-KO Improves Production Management Via RFID

The German manufacturer of industrial air conditioners now has visibility into which parts are arriving at its final assembly plant.
By Rhea Wessel
AL-KO asked Vienna-based auto-ID specialist B&M to design and test a solution that would address this issue. Following a short and successful pilot, the system was installed at the beginning of 2009. The error rate prior to RFID's implementation, according to the company, was 10 percent; the percentage of improvement since the system's deployment has yet to be quantified.

B&M Tricon designed a system in which Deister Electronic UDC 160 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) on-metal transponders are slipped into pouches for delivery notes attached to shrink-wrapped parts in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. The parts are produced in that city, and workers pick and pack individual orders of those parts that must then be sent to Jettingen-Scheppach for final production.


An AL-KO worker places a passive tag inside a plastic pouch attached to each load carrier.

Multiple orders of various products, such as air-conditioning panels, are placed on a single load carrier. Once that carrier is full, an employee shrink-wraps it and assigns it a Handling Unit number generated by the SAP system. That number is then encoded on the Deister tag using a Deister UDL 50 desktop reader. A worker slips the tag into the delivery-notice pouch and zips it closed, attaching the pouch to the outside of the plastic-wrapped load via a Velcro-like fastener.

During the next step, a forklift driver moves the load carrier to the truck-loading area. The driver utilizes an onboard tablet PC to input the license-plate number of the truck onto which he or she plans to place the carrier, and then moves the pallets holding the tagged air-conditioner parts through an RFID gate. The system records the tag's Handling Unit number, the truck's license-plate information and the time of loading, and then notifies the Jettingen-Scheppach plant regarding which parts are en route, via an automatic dispatch notification. With receipt of the notice, managers in Jettingen-Scheppach can better manage their production schedules.

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