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RFID Powers WIP and Tool Management for Composites Manufacturer

U.K.-based Atlas Composite Technologies has deployed a single solution to manage the production of its products from raw composite materials through freezing, thawing and autoclaving, while the same technology ensures the tools needed for these processes are available and in good working order.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 28, 2019

U.K. composites manufacturer Atlas Composite Technologies has deployed an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution that leverages RFID data to track and manage work-in-progress (WIP), as well as the locations and statuses of 1,300 tools used in the building of its products. The solution consists of software from technology company Plataine, integrated with Atlas's own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, as well as RFID tags on supplies and tools, and fixed readers installed around manufacturing stations and at other key points.

Atlas Composite Technologies, located in Ilkeston, England, builds parts for the aerospace industry, as well as for defense, satellite communications and motor sports. As advanced composites products have become more prevalent and have increasingly replaced metal-based parts in these sectors, Atlas Composites has been increasing its production levels to meet that need.

The company faces several challenges. For one thing, managing WIP is especially critical in the composites industry, as the time-sensitive materials with which it works can expire if they spend too much time outside of a freezer before being cured. In the event that the materials do expire, the firm reports, the expense can be high.

Plataine's Amir Ben-Assa
Traditionally, the manufacturer has employed a manual process of identifying where each product is in manufacturing, as well as the location and maintenance of tools used to make those products. For example, paperwork typically traveled with each roll of composite material as it moved through freezing, thawing, cutting, lay-up and curing. The company wanted a single digital view of its entire facility and the operations taking place within.

Early this year, the firm began working with Plataine to deploy its cloud-based solution that would use sensor data about the locations of WIP items, parts and tools, and would then apply machine learning to that information. This enables the company to manage WIP, identify potential errors or material expirations, and ensure that products are made efficiently and without waste, according to Amir Ben-Assa, Plataine's chief marketing officer.

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