Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 WRAP UP!

Just a few days left in 2010. Most of us have all been busy trying to get that last project in the can to wrap up the year. I try and pull that work forward into the September, November time frame so I can concentrate on my next year plans, review trends for the coming year, align with the best of bread tools and position our efforts into markets that are heating up.

A lunch date here and a phone call there and I keep my finger on the pulse of what the market is doing and draft my plans accordingly. Here are my Top Five markets that effect Logistics and RFID tools for automated location for the coming year:

1) From a manufacturing stand point:

a) The Auto Industry is back!

i) Just maybe not as strong as the North American (US) Work force would like to see. We see a big upswing in investment in overseas facilities and projects. New competition entering the market from China and India following the success the Korean Cars have experienced here in the US this is a business plan to follow. GM and Chrysler are leaning heavily on none US based product and are now bringing to market Cars that are really world class in function not just words. Ford has done a wonderful job of rebuilding their product line and business model by starting at (can I use an over worked phrase) Job 1; Build a car people want to buy and drive - what a concept?

b) Heavy manufacturing:

i) Wow with commodity prices hitting records every few days this was an easy guess! The people that make the large Mining Equipment like Caterpillar, Komatsu, John Deere, and Volvo just to name a few, have a sellers’ market to feed right now. Massive cuts in 2009 have left them a bit short handed but built up the cash reserves. Now they just have to learn how to do more with less, and automate some processes to Value Stream operations. Setting on cash will let them buy up market share, they just need to make sure and save some of that cash for core improvements.

2) Agriculture is a coming market:

a) The bread Basket of the United States has changed over the years and we now have technology breaking out all over from GPS guided equipment to soil sampling at application time to adjust fertilizer to the actual soil requirements as you drive. Saving money on over application and reducing over use reduces fuel cost as well. Cost of Chemicals and the resulting theft of them is becoming a problem as well. The World Ag market is right there with the US and the growing needs of the world are demanding more.

3) Health Care:

a) Well the world population worldwide still grows and here in the US the Baby Boomers are all aging nicely. Regulation and health care cost have continued to rise at an alarming rate. All this has forced cutbacks, staff overloading and increasing patient base stressing this system.

4) Education:

a) This and Market Five are closely tied. Here in the United States we worry about or children in school and their safety but these pale in comparison to what some children experience around the world. School Lunch programs, medical response, resource scheduling, and testing all are becoming hard to control and trace.

5) Public Security and safety:

a) Public transportation has never been largely used in the United Sates as much as it has been deployed around the world. Large metropolitan areas in the US have some busses, trains, and subways but once you leave the city we depend on the automobile for our transportation needs. We are seeing move people moving to public transportation to save cost in the US, and Air Travel is growing quickly as well.

b) This is not repeated for the most part worldwide as public transportation is a core part of the daily life.

c) With massive amounts of people relying on or moving to public transportation, accidents, weather issues, and just the uneasy state of the world today is stressing the system to find new answers to Support and service of this vitally depended on system.

What does all of this have to do with RFIND? Opportunity, the use of RFID tools to track and trace Equipment, services, People, and Items to save time, money, and increase efficiencies. RFID is the tool of choice for streamlining systems and processes without manual input. Deployed properly it will return its total investment in well under a year and pay off additional dividends for years to come adding to you bottom line and operations.

Check with your RFID Consultant today for how these tools can help you in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

RFID not just for Location any longer.

Over the years my efforts in Kanban, Six Sigma, value Stream mapping and Process control mixed with automated technology improvements where they fit and add value return Accuracy and Efficiency has giving me some insight as to what RFID can really do.

With defined processes and recording control of process flow will give you an accurate view of produced products and consumed material. And RFID / RTLS work wonders in these environments.

It also gives you a window as to what is being delivered to the customer with a verifiable production history for Customer follow up, satisfaction, and quality control.

Also you now have a window to your inbound supply chain that allows you to foresee delivery problems and adjust production and start on line to address issues before they become a problem, maximizing production uptime and production flow.

These attributes give in many cases almost instant ROI. But I am starting to see the real value of this wonderful tool. I will coin the phrase here and I am sure you will see it in the future RFED, the acronym for Radio Frequency Event Detection.

Laying out a production facility for manufacturing, parts storage and delivery, line side delivery, machine line control and much more require miles of Can Bus and serial wiring back to the control systems Logic unit, PLC’s and computers.

Take this Machining Center retro-fit and rebuild. An 11 station machining center all connected by delivery conveyers, tracked pallets, automated fixtures and clamping systems. This large system covered close to a football field size footprint (Roughly 150 meters by 75 meters). In this system was 35 Pallets/fixtures, and over 300 meters of conveyers and tracks. With hundreds of presence detection switches, door switches, access control switches, movement switching, and more. The close to one mile of wiring with multi channels required was a cost constraint to the project budget and the time to complete was a problem as well as the systems if a mission critical system to production.

Here Comes RFED! Working with a select RFID Vendor we made some minor changes to their product and monitor all the above mentioned devices and relay all that information back to the correct control unit without wires. Saving close to $250,000 US dollars in labor and wiring, and trimming six weeks out of the deployment time, makes this deploy and instant ROI and add millions of dollars to the bottom line in lost time along.

RFID / RTLS and now RFED,

Let me know when you need that Next Technology Solution. It just may be available today if you just think outside the box. Byron

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WiFi RTLS and your Business will it work for you?

Just another day in the office, and the same question came up in a conference call today. What do I have to put in place to get my business ready for RTLS deployments?

This is a hospital style environment that again is trying to stretch their WiFi network deployment dollars to include RTLS. The allure here to use existing infrastructure to support location tools is a noble one, and has valid cost advantages, but in retrospect this is not always the end result. Additional WiFi infrastructure is in most cases required, and if not that, additional location beacons or devices need to be used in tuff to locate areas.

This is not to say WiFi does not work, or that it is not a great cost effective tool. We base WiFi location systems value off of the extensive research and customer statements that point out the overall success rate of total WiFi RTLS / Location solutions is much lower than the WiFi industry vendors would like us to believe. Yes I have used WiFi, and deployed it in these environments but our customers know going in that we are using the technology for this because: XYZ, and if requirements increase or areas are troublesome then: ABC will have to be installed or added on.

WiFi has been around a long time in the RFID world, it is a technology designed for communication that has been asked to be a location system as well because, well in theory it can. ZigBee fits this description as well, and some other technologies but that is the core of the issue. I used a framing hammer the other day to put up trim in the bathroom, not because it was the right tool but it was what I had and I was too lazy to drive from the office back home for the correct tool. Bottom Line the trim is up but it has a few more marks in it then it needed, and it took and light hand with hammer and longer to do. In the end the results are poor compared to if I would have used the correct tool.

Let’s not forget the reason the location tools are needed. If you ask the customer what they want it for you receive some varying answers, and in many cases receive vague answers. Customers have the concept but not solid answers as to how they want to use it. This is where the vendor must do a good analysis of the process stream and flow, mapping this out as to where the value of the location information can be used and how. Without this data being placed in a good software tool you have a limited value prop for you deployment. Given most RFID hardware vendors have software that works with their hardware only you have another problem. Proper Software platforms must be able to handle any tool you throw at it. Take our hospital we discussed today, they will have pharmacies sending items with bar-codes, or passive RFID tags. WiFi tags may work in some departments but not secure enough for tight control of secure floors or restricted patients environments. Will all of this fit into the system that controls your location system? In almost every case the answer to this is no.

Bottom line here again; do site analysis of the processes first, find out what they need to track and how that information needs to be handled and presented, select the software that fits these requirements, then you can look at the location technology that fits the requirements of the covered areas.

With these simple few step processes you will have a complete synchronous flowing system that goes in quickly and performs from day one with limited retuning and adjustments. As well this is reducing required upgrades and retrofits later on in the use of the system. Byron

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Agricultural and RFID

The Agricultural industry today has become one of the most productive industries in the world.

Along with this we are seeing a huge upswing in process efficiencies through technology. RFID, GPS, and process control is becoming common place in tracking equipment and supplies. Theft of course is problem that has always been there but with the cost of chemicals, fertilizer, Fuel, and Seed has been on a constant increase over the years it is becoming a crucial component. Just like your trip to the drug store for cold medicine, agricultural faces the same drug war problem with chemicals, and fuel sources.

This problem is not just a problem for the farmer as the suppliers of these crucial assets find that tanks costing $5000.00 or more are disappearing at an alarming rate. We RFID technology we can monitor storage lots, allow access to areas remotely, and protect unauthorized access as well. With the proper tools we can show drop off point at customer sites and fields and make sure the product or asset stays there and if it moves; locate it and retrieve it.

Theft is not the only reason agricultural is turning to location technology. Accurate time stamping, and process control leads to efficiencies in the filling, and handling of equipment and assets. Streamlining the process and cutting waste is the result, adding hours to the day’s work schedule in lost asset searching, storage and deliver of items to the point of use.

Farming is a fast paced business operating on some of the slimmest margins in the world, the manufacturing world of lean logistics and process control tools and becoming the tools of choice for adding dollars to the bottom-line in agricultural.

Blessed be those that feed the world. Byron