It may be the ideal amalgamation of technologies: RFID, in which electronically stored information located in tags is automatically identified and tracked via electromagnetic fields, and lean manufacturing principals of systematically reducing wastes with no sacrifice of productivity. The ease of tracking the entire manufacturing and supply process that RFID provides improvements in efficiency and contributes to this elimination of waste.
Identifying Waste in Production
Before we delve into the solutions RFID provides, let’s take a look at the differing types of waste as set forth in the lean manufacturing vernacular.
- Waste associated with manpower: This encompasses all aspects of manpower issues from training, turnover, hiring and workflow.
- Waste associated with wait time: Both manpower and machines are too often idly waiting to be activated again in the next step of production.
- Waste associated with unnecessary movement: When manpower is searching for machinery and equipment due to flaws in the planning process, unnecessary movement, which adds nothing of intrinsic value to the manufacturing process, is in play.
- Waste associated with unnecessary inventory: The storage of inventory in substantially large quantities contributes to waste in both space and resources dedicated to handling.
- Waste associated with unnecessary transportation: To help alleviate faulty planning for storage and shipments, lean manufacturing seeks materials supplied by vendors to be ready for use as soon as they are delivered to the assembly line.
- Waste associated with overproduction: In sequential manufacturing, overdoing quantity and speed of completion from one step of the process to another that does not require this increase in quantity and speed causes waste.
- Waste associated with defects: This type of waste involves unnecessary increases in handling, inspections and repairs.
RFID Solutions to the Elimination of Manufacturing Waste
According to research attributed to the International Journal of Production there are five critical areas in which RFID contributes to the elimination of manufacturing waste during production.
- RFID improves efficiency: Due to the improvements RFID offers in the collection and analysis of information, and because the location of stock is more accurately known, there is a substantial reduction in waste from time and effort. This better enables the rotation of stock and the usage of components that have a preset defined shelf life.
- RFID improves inventory management: The real time insights provided by RFID optimizes inventory whether it is currently being manufactured, is being held in storage or has been discarded.
- RFID improves quality enhancement: Due to a more accurate product history, the increased reliability of tracking inventory currently under production has a net positive effect on quality control, which leads to increased serviceability rates as well as advancements in operational management.
- RFID improves decision making: Incorporating RFID technology into the manufacturing process allows for an increase of visibility of raw materials in various states and enhances the tracking of the various manufacturing processes, which enhances both forecasting and decision making capabilities.
- RFID improves time management: Managers who have access to RFID technology enjoy an increased visibility which allows them to track more closely all aspects of the manufacturing processes, leading to better hands on management of all facets of production.
There are many more benefits to deploying RFID assets to manufacturing, some of which are virtually unquantifiable. Enhancements and improvements to brand leads to improved customer satisfaction and minimizes declines in sales.
How to Join RFID Technology to Lean Manufacturing
If a union of RFID and lean manufacturing seems a viable option to increase productivity and eliminate waste, what are practical steps that should be undertaken in order to help ensure a successful transition of implementing RFID into your manufacturing processes?
- Gain an understanding of the technological options available.
- Become knowledgeable of the RFID enabled processes that will be utilized.
- Acquire expertise as to the integration methods that must be employed.
- Plan for the building of the various business processes that will be necessary.
Strategic Considerations as to Types and Methods of RFID Implementation
While there are many such considerations here are a few essentials.
- What are the materials that are to be tagged?
- What is their compositional make up and how does that impact tag selection?
- What types of antennas will be required?
- What types of readers will be used?
- Will there be any restrictions as to where tags will be placed?
Lean manufacturing principals have revolutionized manufacturing and production since the 1990s. They have made the elimination of waste a guiding tenet of companies around the world.
RFID is helping to revolutionize the systematic identification of all of the elements contained within the manufacturing and production processes. The union of the two in those companies that have integrated them are producing increases in most quantifiable measurements of statistical analysis related to their business.