Canadian Packaging

German Firm Optimizes Efficiency With RFID


September 27, 2010
by Canadian Packaging Staff

REHAU AG, a leading supplier of premium quality plastic parts for the automotive industry headquartered in Rehau, Germany, has begun implementing RFID (radio frequency identification) into its operations to  optimize its  production quality and logistics.

Thanks to the utilization of RFID, the company is able to manufacture individually defined parts for customers rather than being constrained to uniform mass production. As well, it also ensures accurate on-time deliveries contributing to a high-level of customer satisfaction.

REHAU began to utilize RFID in early 2009. The company relies on UPM Raflatac ShortDipole RFID tags coupled with the complete solution, as well as Simatic RF600 readers and transponders from Siemens that are designed for harsh industrial environments.

Vehicle bumpers and side member covers at REHAU plants are individually made for each vehicle. The parts first go through an injection moulding process. Thereafter, a paper-faced RFID tag with individual ID
number, information text and barcode is attached to each part enabling them to be identified in the next production stages as well as outside the plant.

Next the parts are sent for painting. Data of the exact color variant and equipment used are included in the RFID tag to make quality control fluent in case any errors occur. Easy traceability of the manufacturing process guarantees that specific cause of error can be quickly traced back and fixed, thus keeping the possibility of undesired additional expenses at minimum.

In the following stages RFID is used to actively manage the assembly processes. Front, rear and side parts to a vehicle are commissioned from a warehouse and mobile readers from Siemens are used to compare the technical data and colour of the parts to the order to avoid incorrect deliveries. Altogether some 200 components are installed in the following assembly stages separately to each bumper. Data from the RFID tags are read at each workstation to assist the operators to perform accurately and swiftly.

In addition to ensuring correct deliveries, REHAU uses RFID to update its ERP (enterprise resource planning) system with real-time information to help avoid any costly delays at the end-users production operations.

"With its highly efficient and automated processes and multiple source and sub-source processes, the automotive industry is perfect fit for utilizing RFID. Linking sources of components to individual cars is essential as customized functionalities become more popular, and currently used barcode technology is usable only as a partial solution," says Mikko Nikkanen, business development director, UPM Raflatac.

"General benefits for the industry ranges from gaining efficiency to supply chain, easier customization possibilities and enhanced quality control. Moreover, it helps eliminate the possibility of counterfeit components
reaching production processes. For consumers, this means additional safety, easier maintenance and genuine possibilities to affect car functionalities," Nikkanen continues.