First RFID System to improve Manufacturing Productivity vs. WMS/Distribution
By Scott T. Olson
Read RFID article for Factory Automation 1980's
Honeywell uses RFID for control of manufacturing Honeywell, Inc.'s Home Products Division applied an RFID system to automate the production of its home control thermostats. Honeywell Automation Services department of The Advance Manufacturing Systems Group designed and integrated the data collection system. Honeywell co-developed the system using Racom's RFID technology. "We took the guts of a smart card and designed an industrial smart tag which was more robust than any existing RFID tag on the market" said Scott Olson. RFID had been installed in the mid 80's using $120.00 each 'read-only' tags. Honeywell's thermostat production line was one of the most advanced manufacturing processes in the world in 1991. Intermec and Symbol bar code scanners are used for packaging control and machine vision systems are used for automated inspection of each component right down to the placement of each screw in a thermostat.
Based on the integration of robotics, bar code, RFID, machine vision and distributed data processing assembly techniques, Honeywell's thermostat production line, located in Golden Valley, Minnesota is also one of the most automated data collection systems in the country. The line has only two human operators. Unlike conventional systems where work-in-process data is managed by networked, centralized computers, Honeywell's system will track work-in-process data "off-line". Once the domain of a central host, real-time data will be handled on the assembly line by RFID "smart tags", and Honeywell workstations and robots, reducing production floor dependence on centralized systems to meet its production schedules and output goals. As a result, data integrity and system reliability has increased, while downtime, typically associated with failed, centralized processing, decreased.
Under the new system, critical manufacturing data, such as, routing information, job instructions and status, is distributed and processed throughout the manufacturing floor between the RFID tags, workstations and robots. RFID smart tags are attached to conveyor-born, 5-inch square pallets holding the thermostats. As the thermostats travel down the assembly line, workstations receive data from the tags using wireless communications. The workstations will then instruct integrated robots and other automation equipment to assemble the thermostats according to current status and assembly data. After job completion, workstations send updated work- m-process data back to the tag for routing and processing by subsequent workstations and robots. All communications, processing and storage in the industrial tags and terminals are sealed and based on solid state electronics, reducing the risks of system failure resulting from mechanical wear or the production floor environment. System reliability has increased, since the RFID tags use electromagnetic induction rather than batteries for power, processing, and communications.
Honeywell is a global controls company focused on creating value through technology that enhances comfort, improves productivity, saves energy, protects the environment, and increases safety. The company services customers worldwide in the homes and buildings, industrial and aviation and space markets. Honeywell employs 57,500 people in 95 countries and had 1996 sales of $7.3 billion. Scott Olson sold the bar code, machine vision and RFID systems used on the Honeywell Thermostat production line.