Keystone Cable manufactures and supplies cables for the building & infrastructure, oil & gas, and data communication markets.
Its work-in-process inventory is made of thousands of different products at its Singapore factory, which supplies customers in Singapore and throughout the region. To the untrained eye, the cables often look similar, but there are dozens of product variations based on the core, insulating material, and other components.
Accurate location management
"The Xerafy tags are performing well for this project. Even though both the drums and the storage racks are metal, the Xerafy tags are nonetheless quite responsive to the RFID readers. Now we can simply type in the drum number into the smart device and the corresponding location of the drum would be displayed. The process of locating a drum, which would sometimes take 30 to 45 minutes before, now only takes less than five minutes.” - Derek Zhu, Senior Strategy Manager at Keystone Cable.
Finished goods are coiled onto large drums that are placed into storage
Identifying and tracking products was a challenge until a production RFID system featuring Xerafy tags provided a foundation for accurate location management. At the end of the production process, finished goods are coiled onto large drums that are placed into storage.
Potential storage locations
To fill orders cable is spooled from the large drum to a smaller one that is shipped to the customer. Depending on the product, drums can be stored indoors or outdoors, resulting in thousands of potential storage locations at the more than 100,000 square foot factory. It often took between 30 and 45 minutes to find the right drum to fill an order.
“Our factory staff was spending a lot of time searching for specific drums throughout the day, resulting in a rather inefficient process,” said Derek. “Although all drums are marked, the location of each drum was not readily tracked. The drums are constantly moving during the coil and recoil process, and it would be difficult to place each drum at a specific location.”
Unique identification codes
Keystone Cable started by mapping its factory into zones and storage areas
Keystone Cable wanted ideas for making its tracking process more efficient and sought help from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), which is a research institute of the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). SIMTech created an innovative application that runs on Android smartphones and uses passive RFID to automatically identify drums and their locations.
Keystone Cable started by mapping its factory into zones and storage areas, which were assigned unique identification codes. Hundreds of Xerafy Data Trak II RFID tags are now installed at storage locations to provide a permanent location ID. Separately, Data Trak II tags encoded with a unique serial number were applied to more than 500 storage drums to provide permanent item identification. Two tags were applied to each drum, one at each end so material handling workers do not have to worry about orientation when they place drums in storage.
The Xerafy Data Trak II comes from the Trak series of RFID tags, which was developed to offer logistics, warehousing, IT, and financial services customers a cost-effective option to deploy RFID on any asset with unparalleled performance and reliability. The read-on metal performance was very important for Keystone Cable because its drums are stored on metal racks.
SIMTech created an Android application and a web-based location database to track the cable drums. Whenever a drum is moved, the operator uses an Android phone with an ARETE Mobile POP plug-in RFID reader to read the location tag and the drum ID tag. The RFID reads automatically update the drum location in the database. It takes only a couple of seconds to record item locations using RFID, which saves a lot of time later when Keystone Cable needs to find a drum to fill an order.