When And Where Does RFID Make Sense?

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Mar - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Mar - 2006
When And Where Does RFID Make Sense?
In some cases, bar codes are not even an option. Here's what some who've implemented it have to say about the feasibility of RFID deployment

Sreenivas Parasa ,VP, Bartronics India Ltd.

Afew of the many advantages of RFID over bar coding include read-write capabilities, parallel reading, reusability and robustness. A classic example is the use of tags for production management in the Mahindra & Mahindra paint shop on the Scorpio product line. Apart from the heat in the oven, a bar code would never survive the paint that would fall on it!

At ITC Bangalore, which has a range of brands, RFID technology effectively routes the right grade and blend of tobacco to the right packaging line.

While the benefits of industrial use of RFID tags are undisputed, cost becomes a consideration at the retail level. Also, different countries use different frequency bands, and so tracking across borders becomes an issue. Gen 2 standards have attempted that at least the EPC (European Product Code)-a unique identifier for a product in the supply chain-would be read across the different frequencies.

While implementing a system could cost anywhere between Rs 50 lakh to a crore, the strategy should be to identify the business process for the "perfect fit."

Arvind Tawde ,VP and CIO, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

Two years ago, we implemented an RFID system for tracking body shells in the Pre-Treatment and Electro-Deposition (PTED) process of the paint-shop at our Nasik plant.

As part of the PTED process, the shells undergo high temperatures and chemical reactions. Typical solutions such as bar codes would not be able to withstand these extreme conditions. We therefore went in for passive, rewritable RFID tags.

At the end of the body shop process, a body shell is loaded on a hanger, and details such as the body serial number, model and colour code are mapped to the unique hanger code in the system. The hanger then transports the body shell to the PTED shop, where it gets dropped on to a skid to which a rewrite-type RFID tag is attached. The details of the body shell are written onto the tag when the skid passes the RFID antenna, and simultaneously, the status is updated in the system. The skid with the body shell then passes through the PTED process. At the exit, the body shell is picked up by a hanger, at which point the details on the tag are read and mapped with the hanger code, and the status is again updated in the system.

In the near future, we plan to extend RFID tracking to our entire line, from body shop to vehicle assembly and roll-out.

N Mohanakrishnan ,Special Director, Information Management Services, Ashok Leyland Ltd.

About nine months ago, we deployed RFID technology in asset tracking and calibration of test equipment. Our testing and R&D facilities are set up on a 150-acre site. High-value test equipments constantly move from one location to another within the premises. These are tracked using RFID, so we are aware of exactly what equipment is being used where.

Next is the automatic calibration of engine test equipment. There are sixty varieties of engines that are manufactured-each engine needs a different calibration of the test equipment. As the particular engine moves along the testing line, it is identified by its RFID tag, and the technology integrates with the embedded software in the test equipment to automatically calibrate it for the particular engine.

By April/May of this year, we propose to extend this to the manufacturing line as well. RFID will help in process-based tuning of the Programmable Logic Controllers in the machine tools. Because of this, while the increase in productivity is expected at 10 to 15 per cent, a significant improvement will be in error-proofing, as re-work will come down considerably.

As for the return on investment, a key advantage as opposed to bar code technology is the ability to integrate with the ERP systems.

Chinar Deshpande, CIO, Pantaloon Retail India

About 10 months ago, at our facilities in Tarapur, we experimented with RFID technology on our John Miller brand of apparel. Since it was a proof-of-concept testing, we tagged only 1,000 units from manufacturing to warehousing. The tags were quite expensive, at Rs 85 per tag. What we learn from the pilot will prove helpful in the future-whenever we deploy on a larger scale.

We discovered that as against the claims of the absence of line-of-sight requirements, the tag readers had to be placed in a "right position." Errors were caused if this was not adhered to. Also, we had to debug the middleware issues in integrating the data captured with legacy systems. Issues of multiple-reads had to be sorted out. The experiment was also studied from the HR viewpoint, as in the loss of employment.

We discontinued the application after the learning process, and are now in a position to deploy it as and when required. For example, in the future, we may consider extending it to the POS (Point of Sale), but only in premium lifestyle stores: at a Big Bazaar or Food Bazaar, the value of the items stocked does not justify RFID tagging.

Another possible deployment of tags and readers is to track the movement of shopping carts within a store. This will help design store layout keeping customer convenience in mind.

Neeraj Pal Singh ,CIO, Madura Garments

We decided on our pilot RFID implementation about a month ago. Going a step ahead of earlier pilots by others in the garments sector, we propose to link up all the way to the POS-the manufacturing unit, the warehouse, and also our Planet Fashion stores in Bangalore.

The advantages over bar code scanning are the labour efficiency that auto-reading offers at the warehouse level, and the elimination of the possibility of imitations at the retail level. Ruggedness is another factor. As far as the investment is concerned, at Rs 30 to 40 per tag, the ability to recycle becomes important.

We plan to go live by mid-April. Our experience with the pilot will form the basis for further decision-making.

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