Integration is the art of harmonizing hardware, software, and equipment systems in order to optimize, visualize, and automate manufacturing processes.

Automation is the art of transforming manually performed business activities into processes that are orchestrated and controlled through software solutions.

Optimization is the art of maximizing manufacturing efficiency, throughput, OEE, yield, and quality by monitoring, analyzing, and iteratively tuning manufacturing processes.

Visualization is the art of providing transparency into manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain operations in order to enable continuous optimization.

Migration is the art of exchanging critical business processes and IT systems without disrupting manufacturing operations.

A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter.

Best practices documents describe manufacturing IT solutions which are accepted within the manufacturing industry as being correct or most effective.

Previously recorded webinars provide in-depth discussion regarding specific manufacturing topics and solutions.

Demos are brief videos that showcase a specific aspect of a manufacturing topic or solution.

Presentations and recordings from past events hosted or attended by SYSTEMA are available to view or download.

Case studies are up-close and detailed examinations of challenges faced within a real-world manufacturing environment along with proven solutions.

Data sheets provide critical pieces of information, such as features and technical details, related to SYSTEMA’s products and services.

Blogs are informal discussions or informational pieces related to manufacturing optimization topics, solutions, and SYSTEMA-related news.

SemiconductorMaterial TrackingAutomationManufacturing AutomationOptimizationIntegrationVisualizationManufacturing Equipment IntegrationdigitaltransformationIIoT

by Thomas Lang, on November 06, 2018

Carrier and Material Tracking in Production

Once again you cannot find material in your production facility and St. Anthony is out on holiday? Not to worry … technology will save the day! With the widespread adoption of digital tracking systems over the past few years, they’ve become more economical. But which system is right for you?

First, it must be determined whether the carriers and/or the material should be identified. On one hand, this depends on whether IDs can be applied to the material. Can the material be labeled or can a readable tag be affixed? If so, is there any risk that production steps may make the label illegible or damage the tag? Can the reader systems be installed in such a way that automatic identification can be achieved? Or must the identification be done manually? On the other hand, there needs to be some certainty that the handling of labeled carriers with material which is unlabeled will be done in a fail-safe manner.

A variety of tracking systems are available on the market which are suitable for a variety of applications – each with advantages and disadvantages.

Bar Code or OCR

Bar Code or OCRThe simplest way of identifying a material is to apply an optically readable mark, such as a bar code (BC) or readable string that can be converted into machine-readable code using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). If using bar codes, bar code scanners are used to read the IDs. With OCR systems, a camera system with character recognition is required. The ID can n ow be applied directly to the material or carrier. Alternatively, the ID can be placed on a label which is then attached to the material or carrier. Under no circumstance should the production processes pollute or damage these labels. Often, the conditions for the recognition of the label are not quite ideal. Illumination and contrast should be of decent quality and consistency. In any case, however, an unrestricted line of sight is required. This sometimes leads to carriers which are covered in labels.

RFID

Radio Frequency ID (RFID) systems are available in different frequency ranges from low frequency (LF) to ultra-high frequency (UHF). The labels (or tags) are differentiated into passive and active categories, with the active ones requiring an external power supply. Low-frequency systems are relatively slow and require expensive tags, but the readers are cheaper and they pair well with metal. Depending on the design, UHF tags are now so cheap that they are permanently applied to the material. Due to the long read ranges, however, incorrect readings can occur (for example, through reflections) and can cause problems.

NFC

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a type of RFID that is only suitable for communication over very short distances between tag and antenna. Most smartphones have a built-in receiver for this system.

UWB

With ultra-wide band (UWB) indoor tracking – similar to GPS, the localization is performed by measuring signal propagation times to the tagged material. However, the satellites are not circling here. They are which is why they are also ultra-wide band indoor trackingcalled anchors. The clearest distinction from the other systems is that objects can be located freely in space and do not have to reside in an area visible to their associated tracking systems. This offers a significant advantage over RFID systems. This can also translate to considerable cost savings in terms of reading devices. However, this system requires comparatively expensive, active tags. 

The following table provides a rough overview of the features of some of the various material tracking systems and may serve as an introductory guide to system selection considerations. In many manufacturing environments, a combination of different identification systems is often used to meet the requirements of the area(s) and conditions under which materials are being tracked. The implementations of these systems vary widely. In some cases, applying a readable ID is not possible simply by printing adhesive labels. It also may be the case that the topology makes it difficult – or too expensive – to utilize UWB anchors.

Feature Comparison for Material Tracking Systems

Table Feature Comparison Material Tracking Systems

* With the greatest possible variety of carrier materials

** When using passive tags where possible

 

Now you just have to decide on a system or a combination of systems. Based on the system you’ve chosen, you will be able to locate your materials directly after installation and St. Anthony can focus on more important matters. But manufacturing does not really become effective unless the material information is also directly available in the systems used by the manufacturing staff – or, even better, the identified material controls the production automatically. The integration and automation of processes becomes more important the more identification and IT based manufacturing systems are in use. Further information regarding integration and automation of processes can be found in SYSTEMA’s guide to digital transformation

Comments