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Marlin Steel Introduces RFID-Enabled Baskets to Aid Manufacturing

The system is designed to increase visibility in the assembly process, to track components' locations and to ensure that a company has the correct quantity of parts on hand.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 28, 2012For businesses that manufacture aerospace, pharmaceutical or other high-value items, even a single component built into a product can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Losing track of a basket filled with parts can thus be extremely costly, due not only to each component's cost, but also the potential loss of production time if assembly is delayed. The solution may be RFID technology, according to Marlin Steel Wire Products, a producer of custom wire baskets and other metal products.

The company developed the system using RFID technology provided by Barcoding Inc. Each RFID-enabled basket comes with an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 passive tag attached to it, encoded with a unique ID number. Users then have the choice of using their existing RFID reader infrastructure, which they may already have in place, or purchasing readers and software to manage read data from Barcoding Inc.

Drew Greenblatt, Marlin Steel's president, at his company's headquarters in Baltimore.
Marlin Steel has provided the baskets to containerize and protect components within industrial or manufacturing sites for many years, says Drew Greenblatt, the company's president. However, he adds, customers reported that it was often challenging to locate a specific basket of components, or to track that basket's arrival at an assembly workstation.

"We have clients looking to ship product faster than ever before," Greenblatt explains. Consequently, he says, those clients need to manage their inventory in such a way that the components are on-hand when needed.

To accomplish this goal, in many cases, companies stock a large number of components at assembly stations, in order to ensure that the parts do not run out. This reduces the risk of assembly delays, Greenblatt says, but can lead to excess inventory on site, and waste space on the assembly floor.

Improved visibility would not only ensure that the proper components were available in real time, but would also enable users to track their work-in-progress, by analyzing the movements of component baskets throughout the facility. By knowing where parts are located and determining when they are delayed or creating a bottleneck, management can identify and address problems. "They want to see if components are below their minimum," Greenblatt states, "so chokepoints are limited."

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