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BLE Provides RTLS for Tracking Production at Auto Ceramics Company

NGK Automotive Ceramics has reduced the amount of labor required to search for palletized products as they move through a partially automated system, using Quuppa technology and Thinkinside management software.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 26, 2018

NGK Automotive Ceramics USA has boosted production at its existing facility with the help of technology, in order to meet the increased demand from an expanding customer base. The company has installed production automation and real-time locating system (RTLS) technologies to track the locations of its partially assembled products as it fulfills customer orders.

Since the system was taken live, NGK has reduced the number of labor hours required for employees to search for goods, while also increasing efficiency, says John Moranski, NGK's CIO and CISO. "We have seen immediate beneficial results," he states. The RTLS solution, provided by Thinkinside and known as ThinkIN, employs the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based Intelligent Locating System from positioning technology company Quuppa.

NGK Ceramics, based in Mooresville, N.C., manufactures ceramic substrates used in catalytic converters for cars, trucks and off-road vehicles. Its facility measures more than 500,000 square feet in size and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The firm has been growing, NGK reports. When it opened in 1988, its entire customer base was in the immediate area, though its market currently includes a much larger population of customers from around the United States.

However, the company wanted to continue operating out of the same facility as it grew larger. That required some automation, and so it launched an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) to monitor parts as products are assembled. It also deployed automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that move pallets loaded with components as they proceed through the production process, as well as finished goods awaiting shipping.

The ASRS solution reduced the number of times goods and materials are manually moved, but it failed to alleviate the problem of storage space restrictions, and goods were often moved into an area where they could not be easily found. That meant the company required two workers during each shift to search for and move pallets.

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