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Using RFID for Work in Process (WIP) Tracking

RFID for WIP Tracking Provides Visibility and Value

Being able to track and have complete visibility into your work in process (WIP) and all the parts moving through your supply chain is obviously valuable.

It’s even better when you can do it automatically and in real time.

Thankfully, there’s a proven and cost-effective way to achieve this with radio frequency identification (RFID).

Understanding RFID & Its Advantages

RFID relies on printed tags to identify and track assets as they move through your supply chain or processes.

Each tag contains a radio transmitter that operates like Wi-Fi, transmitting data wirelessly to a scanner, which reads the tag remotely.

Unlike barcode scanning, which requires line-of-sight access to the barcode and manual scanning, RFID automates data capture and tracking.

As a part or finished good moves through your processes and workstations, fixed RFID readers automatically detect and identify it.

These devices, such as Zebra’s FX9600 fixed RFID reader, are typically placed in strategic locations such as doorways and workstations. They read RFID tags automatically without requiring human labor.

As an alternative, operators and workers can use handheld RFID readers, such as Zebra’s MC9190-Z model. Handheld RFID readers read tags remotely, at long ranges, while also serving as mobile computers to run your business-critical software applications.

Importantly, RFID tags can also contain complex work instructions, bills of material, and tracking numbers. These allow operators to track and direct parts through your processes automatically, with easy access to all the part-specific information and instructions they need.

They can access it all on mobile computers, using a user-friendly app that also allows operators and managers to access real-time WIP tracking and reports.

A Real-World RFID for WIP Case Study

A perfect example of RFID’s value is its use by Troy Design & Manufacturing (TDM), a Ford Motor Company subsidiary. TDM now uses RFID to track, monitor and guide more than 150 daily vehicle conversions at its Chicago Modification Center (CMC).

TDM primarily specializes in prototype and short-run metal stamping, but also handles vehicle conversions. Ford manufactures police interceptors at a nearby plant. The interceptors are then sent to TDM for customization to meet the requirements of local law enforcement units including colors, lights, and other unique features.

In launching this new endeavor, the company realized a manual, paper-based tracking system wouldn’t be efficient enough to handle operations for 150 vehicles per day. Barcoding and fixed terminal entry simply wouldn’t provide the required level of automation.

To find a better alternative, TDM turned to the team at Lowry Solutions and worked together to develop an ideal solution.

A major component of the TDM plan was using Zebra RFID infrastructure technologies to achieve true, automated WIP tracking with real-time visibility into its entire vehicle conversions processes—from receipt to completion.

The system has delivered an array of benefits, including streamlining workflows, preventing downtime, and helping TDM’s operators stay more focused on their tasks with less need to worry about paper-based documentation or tracking duties.

VIN numbers, tracking numbers, work instructions, BOMs, and even time and date stamps are all captured and communicated automatically.

Since the Lowry WIP software interfaces with Ford’s corporate database, TDM also uses RFID to send Ford real-time reports of vehicle receipt, production progress and shipping updates.

Contact Lowry or call us at 1-888-881-2477 to learn more about RFID and how it can help your business.

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