Dresselhaus’ RFID Kanban Solution Tracks Supplies

Published: June 12, 2024
  • Auto manufacturers are deploying an automated system that tracks supply levels at assembly sites to ensure inventory never runs out.
  • The system can include RFID enabled bins, reader pads, reader boxes or gloves that capture tag reads.

Tracking goods through a Kanban system serves as one way to ensure supplies are always available at busy manufacturing sites. But such methods still require manual efforts including dedicated staff members to track the bins, often with paper and pen as their tools.

German fastening and furniture technology company Dresselhaus has released a Kanban solution that leverages RFID to more efficiently manage supplies without delays or interruptions that come from running out of stock. Automotive companies are now leveraging the technology to automate the process.

The Direkt RFID Kanban system includes the company’s DIREKTmodule shelf unit with built-in passive UHF RFID pad reader and antennas. The unit can detect when tagged supply bins are accessed, and when that data is combined with weight sensor measurements it can identify when supplies need to be replenished.

Eliminating Manual and Paper-based Tracking

The modular RFID Kanban system is intended to bring visibility into use of supplies at production sites, to eliminate potential bottlenecks. The technology is being primarily deployed in the automotive sector, but can operate in other industries as well, said Elmar Böhmer, Dresselhaus’s head of the RFID Kanban Department.

Typically, automotive companies have managed their supply levels manually, said Böhmer. That effort often relies on paper documents, physical inventory checks and manual ordering processes. Such supplies can range from consumables like technical sprays, adhesives and sealants in cartridges, fastening materials of all types, tools, safety gloves and goggles. These goods can be hard to track as they are used in high-volume busy facilities.

“The weaknesses of these more manual systems often lie in the accuracy of stocktaking,” said Böhmer. Among the challenges are the time required for manual processes, the possibility of data entry errors, and limited real-time tracking of stock levels.

Dresselhaus’ goal was to automate that process by helping companies capture a digital record, automatically, of what supplies are on-hand, when they are used and when they need to be replenished.

How it Works

The basic unit consists of the DirektUnit with RFID pads, the DirektBin and the DirektLabels, with a DirektController, on-premise or in the cloud, serving as the system’s interface.

Antennas in the RFID pads read the passive UHF RFID tags applied to each supply bin. Each time a bin is accessed, the tag ID is captured wirelessly, and data is forwarded to the software, which updates the status of supplies in that bin.

The data is then accessible to authorized users through the Dresselhaus DirektPortal. Users can receive real-time information online about the status of the system, inventory levels, as well as statistical data related to usage trends.

System Notifications

If a minimum amount of a supply is reached, based on the read data, the system can then alert companies when replenishment is necessary. Additionally, a company can dispatch and deliver supplies to the production line based on when the supplies were previously accessed.

The tag can be read with the reader pad, but users can also employ the company’s RFID-Box which is an enclosed appliance with built-in RFID reader, in which tagged, empty supply containers or bins can be thrown after supplies are consumed. At that point, the system is updated to indicate the bin is empty.

RFID read data is transmitted to the Dresselhaus Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This method optimizes ordering processes, prevents unnecessary stockpiling, reduces costly production space and lowers operating costs, said Böhmer.

Weighing System

The system can be used with Dresselhaus’ DirektWeight IoT device, which comes with weight sensors that track the weight of a supply bin as it is positioned over the sensors, to track the fill level. The ERP software can be programmed to a specific weight for each supply category that would indicate a minimum weight has been reached, leading to an alarm that the fill levels have passed the minimum.

Two sizes are available: a compact weighing system with a footprint of 13 by 17 centimeters for small load carriers or bins or large items the size of a pallet. For heavier loads, the large DirektWeight system is designed to accommodate up to 1.5 tons. It can be accessed by pallet trucks for changing pallets and can be used in high-bay warehouses, Böhmer added.

If the weight drops below a defined value, an LED indicates the status of the order and delivery process.

Placing Orders with RFID Transponder

Alternatively, the system comes with a button with an integrated RFID transponder that can be used to initiate an order. This option is designed for items without an RFID label, which are stored separately on shelves since they are too big to fit in the standard RFID tagged bins.

Additionally, Dresselhaus offers an integrated barcode scanner known as the DirektGlove, equipped with an integrated scanner, that can be connected to a mobile reader system. With each motion of the hand, the glove reads the DirektLabels within its range, and transmits the data to the Dresselhaus ERP system.

Companies have been launching the solution at auto manufacturing sites to include RFID boxes for empty DIREKTbins, RFID shelf pads and RFID scanners for material requirement planning, according to Böhmer.

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