RFID and Kanban

Lean Kanban with RFID support

The Japanese kanban principle is frequently found in industry. By tradition it orients on the demand of a consuming point. Production material is stored in bins identified by cards. Once a bin is empty the card is removed and inserted in a board provided for this purpose.

This signals to the internal logistician – the so-called milk runner – to refill the bins accordingly. This procedure is conventionally a manual one, and is repeated at regular intervals.

In a worst case there is an acute demand shortly after the collection trip by the milk runner, meaning that the card is not removed until the next round, and delivery is not until the next tour but one. So to avoid long delivery times, bins are often kept in factory stores, which results in high levels of stock in store.

What is the way out of such cost-intensive storage?

Well, in many cases barcode is seen as a means to an end, being read in manually upon demand, and then sent to a central store or service provider.

If goods and process stores work with RFID technology however, a bin is automatically detected upon delivery and withdrawal, and an appropriate message is sent. There are no more manual operations, and the delivery process works very much faster. Both operations help to save time and reduce cost.

To put it in concrete terms, an RFID reader is installed on the kanban rack to interrogate multiple read points through different antennas. It is irrelevant for the operation whether bins are fitted with RFID transponders or optionally cards are provided with transponders. Automatic registering guarantees constant detection of inventory in real time on the basis of bins. If the data are linked to the production planning and control system, a short term change in orders will show immediately in the stock in production.

Advantages in industrial operations:

  • Faster and more transparent goods streams in production
  • Less stock in store and thus less capital tied up
  • Reduction in manual activity
  • More reliable technology than barcode

RFID reader for kanban processes from Brooks Automation

RFID manufacturer Brooks Automation offers a reader especially for kanban applications:

  • Compact solution
  • Power-over-Ethernet capability
  • Terminals for inputs and outputs
  • Insensitive to metal in the installation environment
  • Optical and acoustic signal in registering operation
  • Frequency 13.56 MHz
  • Link to RFID Reader HF60 SAV