In a recent drive&control magazine article, published by Rexroth, about intelligent manufacturing systems, QR codes and RFID chips are given as an example of the move toward intelligent processes that communicate where items are in the process of manufacturing. Rexroth predicts these technologies will be used in the future.
This technology is already being used by Walmart and their suppliers later in the supply chain. Their announcement in 2003 put RFID on the map, technologically speaking.
Walmart told their top suppliers they would need to start using RFID tracking so Walmart would be able to strengthen their supply chain. While the system initially didn’t work as well as planned, with issues related to RFID technology hiccups, systems not able to handle the sheer amount of data created, and suppliers not abiding by Walmart’s request, it’s clear this technology has already made a big impact. RFID is already used by Airbus to cut down on the time it takes for different steps in the manufacturing process globally for their airplanes. While the technology of RFID chips is being used by a limited number of manufacturers, Rexroth got it wrong in saying this technology isn’t a big deal yet. The RFID research center at the Sam Walton College of Business, part of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is dedicated specially to RFID chips in the supply chain.
QR codes may be the most obvious update of the current bar code system. RFID chips can be used in situations where you can’t see the identifying tag, like a stack of supplies on the manufacturing floor or different items on one pallet. It still remains to be seen how reliable these technologies will become and how they’ll be integrated into manufacturing as a whole system. Rexroth might have been wrong in saying that RFID isn’t yet used in manufacturing but they’re certainly not wrong to predict that intelligent tracking could change the way manufacturing works.