For example, my company OATSystems and ruggedized tag manufacturer Xerafy recently worked with an aerostructures manufacturer to automate prepreg material receipt and freezer out time tracking with RFID. In this scenario, temperature-sensitive composite material was automatically tracked as it moves in and out of storage freezers and processing areas like pattern cutting and lay-up).

At material receipt, dock doors were installed with RFID readers that track incoming shipments and tag each roll of prepreg material with RFID tags as they are placed in storage freezers. The tags are then encoded by RFID software integrated with the manufacturer’s inventory system, noting receipt date/time and batch number to start out-time tracking. Material moving from the freezers to cutting rooms and lay-up areas are tracked by RFID readers installed within the freezer doors. Directional antennas detect whether a prepreg roll is moving in or out of the freezer when the doors are opened. Freezer out-time is automatically tracked by software and updated to the manufacturer’s materials management system. Now, plant floor staff receive an alert whenever prepreg material is approaching the out time threshold and must be used immediately. These two automated processes help manage the inventory levels and quality of the prepreg material.

The manufacturer has recognized the following benefits to date: it now has auditable time-stamped records of check-out/check-in times and assigned personal responsibility. In addition, it has reduced scrap material due to missed expiration dates and inadvertent curing. And finally, it has realized an improved utilization of high-value materials and equipment.

Given the success of this case and others, we would expect that intelligent tags and tracking solutions will find their way into other industries as well. The RFID process automation will transform the life-cycle management and overall effectiveness of business assets.