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Trolleyponder®/EcoTag® Technology

RFID_WIP(tm) system for monitoring work in progress in factories

A hardware and software system for managing work in progress in factories in a cost effective manner.

This system will allow the current progress of up to 1000 items to be monitored at regular intervals, producing reports on discrepancies and maintaining a database to show the current progress through manufacture of the products of the factory.

Application of RFID_WIP The system comprises of transponder tags for attaching securely to the bins housing the products, transponders attached to the locations/machines which interact with the items being produced, a long range portable UHF RFID reader, a software package running on a laptop/notebook computer and a Bluetooth communication link between the the UHF reader and the notebook computer to pass information.

The system uses the long range capabilities of the reader and the transponders to allow identities of bins and manufacturing locations to be read at a distance. This means that by moving through the factory with the reader, all tagged bins in the factory can be scanned and their identities passed via the Bluetooth link to a software package in the notebook computer.

The software will record the presence and current location of all bins tagged, note the time of checking, and update the database. The system will also feedback which bins have not been located in the current scan, giving details of the product, when it was last seen, and what was the manufacturing stage when it was last seen. The operator can then immediately query the relevant person as to its current location. The software will also report items which have moved to a new location as part of the manufacturing process, updating the database appropriately.

The database is further compatible with common spread sheet programs allowing easy maintenance and information extraction. The software also produces various reports that can be printed.

Long range passive RFID for attaching to bins containing the products
Twiggy transponder for attaching to bins The key to this system, is the availability of very low power long range UHF transponders. With the portable UHF reader, the read range is up to 10 meters between the transponders and the reader, with the reader able to read up to 800 transponders in a zone at up to 70 per second. This rate is far faster than can be absorbed by the human mind and hence the benefits of the software package for processing the information. The very sensitive transponders that operate at long range allow transponders that are very poorly placed to also be read at a good operating distance.
Long range passive RFID for attaching to identifying locations/machines in factory
Location transponder for attaching to machines This transponder is attachd to manufacturing machines or storage locations and when read with the bin tags, marks the location of the bin. The transponder is suitable for attaching directly to metal and has a read range up to 22 meters.

Features of the transponders.
The transponders can be attached to most objects, even metal items. Transponders are passive (do not have a battery) and have a lifetime of more than ten years. Each transponder radiates a unique identity which the software uses to access data about the bin to which the transponder is attached from a database.

Features of the reader
Portable system complete The reader is a UHF RFID portable reader that can provide a low power energising field to energise the transponders and that can read their identities. It is battery operated with all the electronics being housed in a small unit that is carried in a small bag on a shoulder sling, not bigger than a hiker's waterbottle. The reader has an antenna that is attached to the reader on a flexible cable such that the operator can direct where he wants the reader to send its energising field. The reader is connected to the laptop computer used for the software via a Bluetooth interface.

Bluetooth interface
The portable reader passes its data to the notebook with the monitoring program via the Bluetooth interfacing system. This requires the use of a Bluetooth dongle on the notebook computer and a Bluetooth software package to transfer the data to the WIP monitoring program. The Bluetooth communications link allows the reader and the notebook to be separated by 20 meters, allowing the notebook to be operated comfortably on a table while the reader is moving around.

Work in progress monitoring software
The Work in progress monitoring software runs on a Windows laptop or notebook computer.

The software has a Bluetooth management package for managing the Bluetooth communication via a USB/Bluetooth dongle and routing the data from the reader to the RFID_WIP management software.

The RFID_WIP management program is a customised program that allows the user to set up the system for all measurements via drop down menus. It takes measurements from the UHF reader, and applies these to the central database automatically updating the current location of items, and informing the operator of which items have not yet been seen at this location. The system also generates reports that can be viewed and printed from any WWW browser to provide a paper trail.

All databases are stored in common type formats, letting programs like Excel spreadsheets import/export the master database for massaging and data capture should that be necessary.

To operate the software, the user moves around the factory pointing the UHF reader antenna at the various spaces and reading the codes of the items at high speed into the software. When finished with the scanning, by querying the software to show what items have been missed, he is given a list of items that were in that scanning location the last time a survey was done, and which are not now yet detected. This allows him to immediately follow up with the queries before moving onto the next location.

When finished with all locations he can produce reports on what was and what was not seen, and then update the master database to reflect the date and current location of all the items that were identified.

The system includes a feature to locate a particular tag in a situation where many tags are present at the same time. The tag number is entered and the environment scanned. As soon as the software detects a match, it makes the notebook computer start beeping and flashes a message on the screen. This is repeated at one second intervals while the target transponder is in the zone. When the operator turns away, the warnings stop and so the operator can home in on the actual tag location

The package
The RFID_WIP Management system is sold as a package of hardware and software to solve the application. The client needs to supply the laptop/notebook computer that will be used run the management system and that can be used with the portable reader when surveying the different locations.

The package comprises
One UHF Trolley Scan Portable reader with Bluetooth interface
One Bluetooth/USB dongle for attaching to notebook.
One hundred      Bin tags for attaching to bins
Ten       Location tags for attaching to machinary/storage locations
One RFID_WIP management software program
One Bluetooth interface utility software
One Battery charger for portable reader
Additional Ecochiptags can be bought as needed.

RFID_WIP(tm) is the trademark of RFID Technologies CC

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