The manufacturing sector serves as the backbone for industries and businesses across the globe. Businesses rely on the manufacturing sector to produce their designs in bulk and make them available to their customers. Companies make significant investments to streamline their manufacturing operations and improve their margins. They continuously optimize their supply chain and processes and train their employees to improve their outputs and the quality of production.
Among these, RFID and NFC are two technologies that have recently made their foray into the manufacturing industry. In this article, we explore how these two technologies improve safety and production quality in the manufacturing sector.
RFID and NFC are technologies that are used to communicate or transfer information at very short ranges. At a glance, they both appear similar, but the underlying technology and their applications are different.
RFID or Radio Frequency Identification uses radio waves to communicate a small amount of information to a receiver. The information is stored on small tags and they send the information only when they’re in the vicinity of a reader. The receiver constantly sends radio signals and the tags use this energy to send back the stored information.
These RFID tags have a very short-range, but active tags which have a battery on them can send the data to a longer distance.
RFID tags are similar to bar codes. In most applications, the RFID tags store identification information or a number that can be referenced to a database. But unlike a bar-code reader, an RFID reader and the tag don’t have to be in a line of sight.
NFC or Near-Field Communication is a set of communication protocols built on top of RFID. They’re similar to RFID but have a shorter range. Just like RFID, NFC can also be active or passive. But in the case of active NFC devices, both the reader and the tag use their power alternatively to send the information.
Another difference is that active NFC devices can also act as readers when working with passive devices. NFC tags can also securely store different types of information such as credit and debit card info, info for loyalty programs, and many others.
Active NFC devices can often emulate other NFC tags or devices. For instance, NFC devices within smartphones can store credit and debit card information and can be used instead of them for purchases.
These technologies are often used to track vehicles, allow access, and even make purchases.
Many industries use RFID and NFC technology to automate tasks and processes since they’re reasonably inexpensive and highly accurate. Just by placing an NFC or an RFID tag on an object, the object becomes machine-recognizable without a complicated computer or laser vision technology. This makes it ideal for systems to trigger specific actions in the presence of objects.
For example, many offices add RFID tags to their employees’ ID cards. When the employees show their ID cards near the doors, the system will log their entry, mark their attendance, and allow them to enter the premises.
With this identification system, organizations can improve safety and security on their premises.
Access control can significantly improve safety in manufacturing units.
Manufacturing units and factories often have highly sensitive and potentially hazardous equipment. These can be anything from simple metal grinders to forklifts, cranes, and even trucks. Some equipment such as CNC machines, laser cutters, and powder-coating systems may have to be stored in specific rooms and may require careful programming.
Without proper access management, unauthorized employees may use them and injure themselves or the people around them. Organizations can cut down this risk by using RFID or NFC cards to control access to these areas or machinery. They can ensure that only trained and qualified operators aware of the risks and safety protocols will use them.
Manufacturing industries require proper process control to ensure the safety of the machinery and the people around it. Some of these machines require operators to follow detailed steps to ensure safe operations. In some situations, the managers may lay out detailed steps for different processes to ensure safety and efficiency.
But over time, operators and workers may skip these steps for the sake of convenience. For example, operators may not wait for a machine to completely shut down before replacing components or adding lubricants.
This can significantly increase the safety risks.
But with RFID systems, organizations can keep track of all the activities in their manufacturing units and ensure that all the steps are followed.
In the event of an accident, these systems will also provide investigators with more data to identify the cause and prevent it in the future.
Equipment failure is one of the major causes of accidents in manufacturing units. Many pieces of equipment often have built-in safety features but without maintenance, they may fail.
RFID and NFC systems can ensure that the maintenance personnel carries out regular maintenance on the devices. Instead of manually maintaining the records, these systems can keep detailed records of their activities and even remind them about upcoming repairs.
Companies can also schedule regular inspections to ensure that their equipment is in good condition. They can assign employees to conduct daily or weekly walkarounds and by using NFC tags, they can ensure that these inspections are conducted without fail.
In manufacturing units, it’s important to restrict workers from different sections to mitigate health and safety risks.
For instance, during the painting and polishing processes, workers may be exposed to toxic substances. They have to use protective equipment to shield themselves from these substances. They may also have to undergo routine health checkups to ensure they’re not exposed to higher doses.
Even higher risks exist if workers are dealing with radioactive substances. Exposure to high doses in a short period can be fatal.
If unauthorized personnel enter the workspace, it can put them at serious health risks. But by keeping track of them, organizations can mitigate this risk to a large extent.
One of the major roadblocks to safety is the associated cost. Implementing safety measures takes significant resources and in some cases, it can be tough to justify this.
But with NFC and RFID tags, organizations can make their workplaces safer without it impacting their bottom line. They can reduce the number of safety personnel and reduce their workload.
Automation also reduces human errors to a large extent. Even when organizations deploy safety measures, employees simply may forget to adhere to them. They may forget to put on their PPE or check the equipment before turning them on. NFC and RFID systems can make safety systems more robust.
In manufacturing units, quality assurance is largely about optimizing the processes and ensuring consistency in these processes. In practice, this means collecting granular data about these processes and auditing them to ensure compliance.
NFC and RFID can help ensure this consistency and make data collection easier and more efficient.
With RFID and NFC systems, organizations can ensure that the entire process is completely traceable. When a product rolls off the assembly line, the quality assurance team can pick it up and trace back which specific tools were used, where the materials were sourced from, who all were involved in the process, and all the other aspects of its production.
This traceability allows quality assurance teams to identify the areas of manufacturing causing the defects and change them as necessary. For instance, in a car assembly plant, if a door panel appears to be coming slightly off the specifications, they can track its entire process and figure out the origin of the defect.
This is a matter of safety as well as quality control. If unauthorized or untrained workers operate the tools, the product quality will go down and the company would face material loss.
It will also affect the processes further down the line. If a certain component is rejected, it can seriously impact the company’s bottom line.
With RFID and NFC tools, organizations can ensure that only trained professionals will perform the operations or use the tools. Businesses can also keep track of the personnel using the tools and analyze their performance.
Regular maintenance is not just about safety and optimizing the cost but is also important for quality control. Over time most machines with moving parts will wear down and become less precise. This can reduce the quality of the work product. For instance, without regular calibration, CNC machines may create errors in dimensions. Some printers may need their parts replaced regularly to get the right colors.
But conducting these maintenances and keeping their records is not easy. In most scenarios, this is manual and collects just broad data. With RFID and NFC systems, organizations can have high-quality data during the calibration and maintenance process. They can further use this data to plan their maintenance efficiently.
NFC and RFID improve inventory management in a manufacturing unit. Companies can ensure that they have supplies to sustain the manufacturing process without delays or interruptions.
This will also offer more granular data to QA teams. If a certain material or component appears to be defective or creates issues during assembly, they can look for alternate materials or suppliers.
Manufacturing and assembly processes tend to be highly complicated. There are a lot of processes, personnel, materials, and equipment involved, and it’s tough to get a complete picture.
This lack of data makes it difficult to improve the processes. With the help of RFID and NFC systems, organizations can get detailed data about every process. They can identify the specific people involved, the tools they use, and how the individual processes tie into the overall production process.
With this enhanced visibility, analysts can identify the inefficiencies and figure out how they can improve the process.
Quality control and quality assurance processes are very resource intensive. The team has to constantly analyze the process in every stage and test the output to make sure products are within specification with minimal loss.
But by automating a large part of this process, businesses can cut down their expenses significantly. When the data collection is automated, the QA team can spend their time and energy analyzing the collected data and making necessary changes.
The business can also redirect its resources to updating its equipment and machinery and improving its margins.
TargPatrol is a cutting-edge app designed that uses RFID and NFC tags to improve processes and automatically monitor them. It offers a complete platform for organizations to manage their inspections and walkarounds and manage their maintenance schedules.
With TargPatrol, organizations can improve safety in their manufacturing units and improve the quality of their production with minimal investments.
Check out TargPatrol and take the next step to safety and quality control in your manufacturing units.