Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used today for a wide range of innovative applications, such as teaching English to kids. But now, Ceramic Industry reports that RFID technology is helping brick manufacturers. A company in South Carolina has put high-temperature-resistant tags on its 170 kiln cars to track its brick fabrication process and is very happy with the results. Brick manufacturing is not a sexy industry, but I'm sure that many of you know about other industries using RFID for little-known usages. Drop me a note and I'll be happy to write a summary of your discoveries.
Before going further, below is a diagram showing the technology used at this brick factory (Credit: HackTrac web site). Here is a link to a larger version of this diagram.
Now, here are some quotes from the Ceramic Industry article.
According to [Henry Moore, plant manager for Palmetto Brick Co.], the company had been searching for a way to automate its kiln car tracking system but couldn't find anything that looked like it would meet the plant's needs. When construction on Palmetto's newest plant began in 2004, kiln car tracking in the Lingl 1 plant took a back burner. Then, in 2005, Moore got a call from Lance Burnett of Stark Solutions, Greenville, S.C., asking if Moore would be interested in a system that could help Palmetto Brick track inventory in its brick yard.
Lance Burnett had some convincing arguments.
"Lance came in and presented the system to us. Then he came back a little later and asked me if it would be an advantage to have the system track the kiln cars through the plant. We had some meetings and they sat down with us for a few hours at a time, explaining the system and showing us some slides. They provided training for our employees, and we had a sweet deal-if the system didn't work, we wouldn't have to pay for it," says Moore. "It was an easy decision."
So Stark Solutions deployed its HackTrac technology.
Stark Solutions installed high-temperature- resistant tags in the form of small discs under each of the 170 kiln cars in Palmetto Brick's Lingl 1 plant. According to Moore, the tags are expected to last about 15 years under the conditions experienced in the plant. Sensors were placed at key locations, such as at the entrance and exit ends of the dryer and kiln, to read the tags as they approach those areas. The entire system was installed without any downtime in the plant.
Here are some more details about this technology.
HackTrac WIP (Work in Progress) uses high temperature resistant RFID tags to track kiln cars from setting through dryers and kilns and to the de-hacking or packing operations.
HackTrac WIP allows operators to view in real time where product and kiln cars are located. The solution allows manufacturers to plan and schedule production more effectively while capturing valuable data that can be used in quality control.
Of course, the brick manufacturer is also using RFID tags for more traditional usages, such as keeping track of its inventory. But I don't know many usages of RFID technology in the manufacturing business. If you know some, please drop me a note.
Sources: Christine Grahl, Ceramic Industry, May 1, 2006; and various web sites
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