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SEP-OCT 2017

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20 INTECH SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 WWW.ISA.ORG FACTORY AUTOMATION is integrated into and critical to the manufacturing process, whether that is to track a product from manufac- turing to shipping or to track tools and assets in a dedicated area. l Performance monitoring and process control: The RFID system is integrat- ed with other technologies, such as PLCs or sensors. A system like this can ensure, for example, the correct tool is used with the correct parts to prevent damage and downtime. l Preventative maintenance: The RFID system stores data that is used to de termine when maintenance needs to be performed on a machine. With RFID, the PLC can also trigger an alarm or stop if a tracked parameter goes outside expected limits. In all three of these examples, RFID constantly gathers and processes in - formation needed for automation sys- tem reliability. Some areas would not benefit greatly from RFID compared to less complex solutions, such as bar - coding. Understanding where RFID of- fers the greatest benefits will help com- panies achieve the greatest ROI. Calculating ROI The final step is estimating the ROI to determine how long it will take to see the benefits of the RFID system. First, prepare a complete picture of the invest- ment—including hardware, software, integration, and training. Then, compare that investment to the estimated amount lost by the current problem. This loss should be quantified by the lost dollar amounts caused by downtime, damage to equipment, etc. In many cases, ROI can be achieved in less than 18 months. RFID ROI should be calculated on the primary pain point; however, compa - nies often find additional uses for RFID that add further value. For example, the accounting team of one company that tracked the usage life cycle of a machine used that information to automatically inventory assets for auditing. Implementing an RFID system Understanding all of the components involved, as well as how to kick-start an RFID project, is essential. This fi- nal section gives an overview of all the Addressing specific problems Every manager wants to optimize his or her company's operational efficiency. RFID, when implemented correctly, can do just that. The first step is to make sure RFID is the right solution. Consider particular pain points within a business or application by asking: l Are lost or misrouted assets largely affecting productivity or success? l Is it hard to find inventory in a plant or warehouse, causing excessive lost work hours or downtime? l Have there been costs or unsched- uled downtime because an incorrect tool damaged a machine? l Have there been instances when a parameter went out of expected lim- its, resulting in equipment damage and downtime? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, RFID is a strong contender as the optimal solution. However, specific problem areas also need to be analyzed, quantified, and given a dollar cost value. Is RFID the right technology? Next, it is important to compare RFID technology to other solutions to find out if it is the best solution to a particu- lar problem. One good question to ask is how much data generation is needed and at what frequency. RFID is great for appli- cations that produce constant streams of information. The three use cases consid- ered previously illustrate this perfectly: l Asset management: The RFID system for example, can track the tempera- ture of rotating elements wirelessly (figure 2). Here, the RFID tags are pas- sive (i.e., they do not require a battery source), which greatly reduces the need for replacing and interrupting the movement of these rotating parts. C rossing an established temperature threshold could indicate the ma - chine is functioning improperly. The machine's control system could then slow down the rotation of the gear or even stop the rotation altogether, avoiding potential damage to a very expensive system. Business case for RFID The significant benefits of RFID usu- ally outweigh cost and implementation considerations. Analyzing a particular application and the return on invest- ment (ROI) of RFID helps to develop the business case and plan for its im- plementation. The section below dis- cusses how to determine if RFID is the right solution and develop such a busi- ness case. Below are the three ques- tions this exercise will help answer: l What kind of internal problem will RFID solve? l Is RFID the right solution for the spe- cific application? l How should ROI be calculated? If a company needs support in an- swering these questions, an RFID expert or systems integrator can help deter- mine if RFID is the best solution. Figure 2. In this example, RFID tags connected to a thermal sensor in a large motor or gearbox track the temperature of rotating elements wirelessly.

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