The gap between the first and the second, the second and the third industrial revolution was over hundred years. Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution arrived just within 45 years since the third industrial revolution. From coal to gas to electronics and computers to internet and IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), we have come a long way.
The term smart manufacturing means a million things but to sum it up, let’s just say, it is about working smart, and manufacturing smart which is only possible when you incorporate technology in every aspect of the manufacturing process itself. From acquiring raw materials to material handling, integrated manufacturing system, machinery, machine operators, products to delivering that product to consumers and creating interconnectivity between all the steps of product life cycle , now that is smart manufacturing.
Add to that customer feedback and customer interest analysis and insights by implementing predictive analytics and cloud computing with cloud, AI, and ML, you’ve got a fully fledged smart manufacturing business.
So, What is Industry 4.0, exactly?
Industry 4.0 is about transforming how we run business post 2000 AD and how nine major technologies that are Internet of manufacturing things (IoMT), cloud computing, Big Data, Simulation, Augmented reality, Additive manufacturing, system integrations, autonomous robots, and cyber security can be leveraged to do so.
RFID in Smart Manufacturing
RFID can be seen as an enabler of industry 4.0 under internet of manufacturing things (IoMT).
Let’s see how RFID can contribute to smart manufacturing as an AIDC technology.
RFID is used in smart manufacturing by integrating it with cyber physical systems that aim to revamp the old manufacturing architecture by making it self-aware through cloud computing and and IoT and other I4.0 technologies.
The areas it can be used in manufacturing are several but the key areas are data acquisitions systems and material tracking throughout the manufacturing and distribution that create a complex production systems and a better product life cycle assessment.
A typical RFID system comprises of three main components. A active or passive tag which is a small programmable IC chip that holds the data, a RFID reader which comprises of an antenna and a transceiver which enables communication with RFID tag and sharing of data to end user. And the third is a host data processing system for the end user.
Material flow, in and out of manufacturing facilities, remains a critical aspect of a streamlined, efficient, smart manufacturing. Companies looking to remain competitive in business must constantly employ means to control material handling in and out of manufacturing floors and that is only possible with incorporating IoTM and through intelligence guided vehicles.
RFID, as part of Internet of manufacturing things plays an important role in this. It can be used to locate and track consignments in a holding lot by accessing RFID at each stage of pre delivery process. RFID when used with UWB can work as RTLS (real time locating system) to determine the location of finished or raw goods.
RFID can also be used to create a smart self-aware inventory in combination with other I4.0 enablers. It can be used to provide greater visibility to materials, finished or raw, inside the inventory and can eliminate data inaccuracies and resulting losses.
RFID enabled smart shelves can update the manufacturer about the inventory level and raw/ finished goods shortage if any. Inventory restocking can be done easily this way.
Planning and control play an important role in production. Production processes can be adjusted with visibility base scheduling of raw materials by tracking it.
Produced parts can also be tracked, using RFID, throughout the production cycle which can provide with estimates on process completion. It can also help in assessing incidents, reimagining of certain manufacturing process in a virtual setting and can prevent further incidents.
The high read rate and accuracy of RFID system make it a primary AIDC technology. It is actually preferred to barcodes as it doesn’t require a clear line of sight to read and to capture data.