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RFID Within an MES Framework on Shop-floors

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Systems
Wordcount: 5773 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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RFID within an MES Framework on shop-floors: A Literature Review and case study on TK Maxx ‘merchandise protection systems’.

Review of a Current Topic in Manufacturing Information Systems (MIS).


Table of Contents


1 Section 1- MES Framework with Case Study

1.1 Abstract

1.2 Introduction

1.3 Literature review

1.4 MES Framework

1.4.1 Architecture of the RFID-based MES

1.4.2 Logic framework of the RFID-based MES

1.4.3 Intelligent objects

1.5 The advantage of RFID technology in manufacturing execution system

1.6 Case study

2 Section 2- Reflective

3 References

 List of Figures

Figure 1 Schematic diagram of RFID (chen, 2009)

Figure 2 An overview of RFID technology (Anon., 2015)

Figure 3 Logic framework of RFID based MES (chen, 2009)

Figure 4 MES framework (chen, 2009)

List of Tables

Table 1 An example of the overall production process (chen,2009)

Table 2 The deployment of RFID Devices (Mckeag, 2013)


Automatic Identification systems- AISs

Radio Frequency Identification- RFID

Manufacturing Execution System- MES

Electronic Product Code- EPC

Operation Management- OM

1         Section 1- MES Framework with Case Study

1.1        Abstract

As an emerging technology, RFID has become a tool for easy gathering of data, efficient and effective way of identifying and capturing information in most manufacturing industries in today’s world so as to do away with the uncertainty and the complexity caused by many varieties of products component in most manufacturing industries.

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1.2        Introduction

RFID is cost effective and defined as the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on tag attached to an object and tag can be read from up several feet away and does not need to be within direct line-of-sight of the reader to be tracked.  Wal-Mart and the Department of Defence to incorporate RFID technology into their supply chains. In 2003, with the aim of enabling pallet-level tracking of inventory, Wal-Mart issued an RFID mandate requiring its top suppliers to begin tagging pallets and cases, with EPC labels (Anon., 2010). The Department of Defence quickly followed suit and issued the same mandate to its top 100 suppliers. This drive to incorporate RFID technology into their supply chains is motivated by the increased shipping, receiving and stocking efficiency and the decreased costs of labour, storage, and product loss that pallet-level visibility of inventory can offer. Wal-Mart and the Department of Defence are, respectively, the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest supply chain operator. RFID mandates are spurring growth in the RFID industry and bringing this emerging technology into the mainstream (Jechlitschek, 2013). The costs of employing RFID are falling as a result of the mandates also, as an economy of scale is realized. Lastly, the mandates appear to have united the industry behind a single technology standard. The lack of industry consensus over the standards issue had been impeding industry growth prior to the issuance of the mandates. Wal-Mart and Department of Defence used RFID to industry growth, RFID has begun to attract the notice of a wide range of industries and government agencies (Anon., 2010). The basis of this review is to find the role of RFID in a MES framework and critically discussing the process of systematically deploying RFID within an MES framework on shop-floors (H, 2006).

1.3        Literature review

RFID has been tried and tested in many manufacturing enterprises to aid, speed up and improve general operation within shop floor activities as well as production. Many companies resort to the work of RFID to manage customer orders, operation times and resolve emergency orders. (Qiu, 2003) stated that,” RFID has been proposed to capture manufacturing data, aiming at real-time synchronization of the physical flow of materials and associated information”.

The manufacturing line of Ford motor cars in Mexico, replaced their manual coding system, used in tracking cars across the line, to a RFID hailing that not only is RFID able to store 23-digit serial numbers, but the tags proved to be a more durable replacement able to withstand very high temperatures in production. Further stating that “the biggest benefits of RFID. Where the former manual coding system required each identification sheet be manually updated at every turn in the production line, RFID allows updates to be written to the tag, so that it is constantly being updated without risk of operator error.” Dell computers replaced their barcode kitting with an RFID application system (S, 2006). Audi use an RFID system in conjunction with programmable logic controllers PLCs to monitor and control the robots performing manufacturing and assembly operation (B, 2012), likewise (Cheng c, 2007) adopted a RFID enabled system to estimate the life of computerized control cutting tools, automated recording of calibration data, and for automating tool replenishment and reported a reduction of 50% in the time used for manual recording and a significant  reduction of errors made when typing (Camdereli, 2010).

In 2011 Swedberg embraced this attribute of life cycle traceability by attaching tags to parts of electric trucks allowing mechanics to read them and actualize the maintenance history of the vehicle electrical system automatically. Additionally, (Wessel, 2007) used RFID tags to locate car seats in manufacturing and access the respective product information in case of recall.

EPC global is a consortium Wal-Mart, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Lockheed-Martin, Hewlett-Packard,  among others and started “Auto-ID center” (Baudin, 2005). RFID tagging administers used in supply chain, Toyota South Africa made use of the tags in an automated vehicle tracking system to accelerate throughput of produced assets in the supply chain (Rametse, 2012).

(H, 2006) Proposed a RFID based resource scheduling system to help users to pick out the most suitable resource usage packages for handling warehouse operation environment. They integrated RFID and case-based reasoning (CBR) technologies to advance the route taken by forklifts in a logistics company.

RFID with ubiquitous sensing ability has attracted considerable attention in recent years due to its outstanding advantages in identifying objects, real-time data collection and efficient information transmission (Anon., 2004).Manufacturing industry observed the opportunities of using such technology for creating an RFID-enabled ubiquitous environment so as to improve the production decision making with the final goal of intelligent manufacturing (J. Fang, 2013).

In technical aspects, recent movement and development are integrating some advanced technologies and concepts in creating the RFID-enabled ubiquitous manufacturing sites. For typical RFID behaviours such as reading and writing, an event-driven mechanism was proposed for facilitating the RFID detections (J. Fang, 2013).In order to control the production tasks and work-in-progress (WIP) inventory, agents technology was integrated with RFID in the ubiquitous manufacturing environment (R. V Barenji, 2014).

Advance production planning and scheduling also referred to as advance manufacturing, adverts a management process by which materials, production capacities and related sources are optimally allocated to meet specific demand (K Musselman, 2001). This chapter provides a review of existing literature, supported by relevant industry reports and current examples from key players in the fashion retail sector, to provide a comprehensive analysis of different types of consumer-facing digital technology in various fashion store formats and how they impact on the overall shopping experience. However, RFID remains questionable and doubtable and manufacturers are still quite hesitant to adopt it in their manufacturing systems (Dr. Ing, 2016). Data collection and documentation control is a continuous task throughout the manufacturing process but are of particular advantage in the job scheduling and inventory control, the job is sent to the sorting centre for packaging before being sent to the assembly line. However, if the required inventory is not available the MES system automatically generates a purchase order (PO) and produces it for review before e-mailing it to the supplier (Mckeag, 2013).

1.4          MES Framework

RFID transponders (tags) consist in general of: Microchip, Antenna, Case, Battery (for active tags only). There are 3 types of RFID tags in relation to energy: Passive, Semi-passive and Active. Passive tags don’t have an internal power source, and they therefore rely on the power of reader (Anon., 2004). RFID tags have 3 frequency: Low frequency (LF, 30 – 500kHz) High frequency (HF, 10 – 15MHz) Ultra high frequency (UHF, 850 – 950MHz, 2.4 – 2.5GHz, 5.8GHz). Low frequency tags are cheaper than any of the higher frequency tags. Systems which are used in manufacturing: Visual recognition:  colors and shapes are used for identification. Contact recognition: Systems like reed relay belong to this category. Optical recognition: Barcode and other visual systems have the disadvantage between object and reader. Dirt, vapor, refraction, scratches, and even vibrations can interfere (et.al, 2008). EPC global classifies tags into the following six classes: 

  1. Class 0: Read Only – Programmed in factory that manufactures the tag
  2. Class 1: Write Once, Read Many – Programmed by the factory or the user
  3. Class 2: Read Write – Can be programmed based on requirements
  4. Class 3: Read Write with on-board sensors – to record such parameters as Temperature, etc.
  5. Class 4: Read/Write with integrated transmitters – can communicate independent of readers 
  6. Class 5: Read/Write with integrated transmitters – all Class-4 capabilities has ability to communicate with and passive devices (Baudin, 2005).

Figure 2 An overview of RFID technology (Anon., 2015)

New equipment, from numerically controlled manufacturing machinery to ATMs, is controlled by digital electronic signals. Making data digital is done via computer keyboards, bar codes, radio frequencies, optical characters, and so forth. RFID tags provide unique identification that enables the tracking and monitoring of parts, pallets, people, and pets—virtually everything that moves. RFID requires no line of sight between tag and reader (Qiu, 2003).

1.4.1          Architecture of the RFID-based MES

In this section, the architecture and logic framework of the RFID-based MES system are proposed to accomplish the functions described as above. Afterwards, intelligent objects are decided, i.e., what objects should be tagged or be equipped with readers, and specific intelligent functionalities of the RFID-based (J. Fang, 2013) MES are specifically illustrated (Dr. Ing, 2016).

Figure 3 Logic framework of RFID based MES (chen, 2009)

1.4.2          Logic framework of the RFID-based MES

In the following parts, an example will be given to illustrate the logic of the system. As shown in Table 1, the production order PS 1 is to assemble 40 Prod 1 from 3 p.m, The production process of Prod 1 consists of 30 tasks that are assigned to 8 stations respectively via the line balancing algorithm (chen, 2009).

Table 1 An example of the overall production process (chen,2009)

Process Sequence




Product Definition

e.g., Prod 1


Product Segment

e.g., {Seg 1, Seg 2,…, Seg 30} for Prod 1


Material Specification

e.g., {Mat 1, 10; Mat 2, 20} for Seg 1



e.g., {Sta 1, Sta 2,…, Sta 8}


Line Balance

Sta 11{Seg 1, Seg 2, Seg 3, Seg 4} Sta 21{Seg 5, Seg 6, Seg 7} … Sta 81{Seg 27, Seg 28, Seg 29, Seg 30}


Production Schedule

e.g., PS 1, to produce 40 Prodl, begin from 15:00:00


Production Request

e.g., {PR 1, PR2,…, PR 40} for PS 1


Segment Requirement

e.g., {SR 1, SR 2,…, SR 30} for PR 1


Material Requirement

e.g., {Mat 1, 10; Mat 2, 20} for SR 1


Detailed Material (unit) Requirement

Collections of Material Requirement for Production Schedule PS 1


Requisition Order (RO)

Aggregation of detailed material (unit) requirements by material and station(with lot size or delivery interval from materials preparation area to work stations known)


Sorting Order (SO)

Aggregation of Requisition Order by material


Move Inventory Order (MO)

Aggregation of sorting order according to lot size or delivery interval from warehouse to materials preparation area known

1.4.3          Intelligent objects

When equipped with RFID devices (i.e., tags and readers), physical objects in a typical manufacturing system become intelligent objects that are traceable and hence controllable (Dr. Ing, 2016). The deployment and coverage of RFID devices are listed in Table 2 (Mckeag, 2013)

Table 2 The deployment of RFID Devices (Mckeag, 2013)

No. of Input


Deployment of RFID readers and tags


Materials and WIPs

Stick tags to their containers (pallets, bins and boxes, etc.)



Embed tags into personnel identification badge


Facilities and conveyors

Deploy RFID readers to the shelves in the warehouse and the sorting center, the sorting tunnel in the sorting center, the workbenches in the assembly line, the material reservation boxes by workstations, the vehicles conveying materials and products, and the ceiling of the laboratory for tracking workers from above.



Allocate portable readers for material checking

1.5          The advantage of RFID technology in manufacturing execution system

RFID technology to the manufacturing process, the real-time production data can be written into RFID tags, such as process data, raw material data, quality data, etc. Therefore, enterprise can master real-time workshop production data, such as Production Schedule, raw material quantity in-process, work-in-process storage (K Musselman, 2001). Through real-time information mining analysis, enterprise can realize lean production at the workshop floor (chen, 2009). The production quality can be managed dynamic, provide basic information for production quality traceability. Enterprise can obtain the real-time information of manufacturing process to improve the production efficiency and reduce the production cost, perfect production management using RFID (Mckeag, 2013).

1.6          Case study

Industry 4.0 is to track the manufacturing execution by using the RFID system. It improve shop-floor inventory tracking and automate warehouse operations, including shipping/receiving (M. Orm, 2018). RFID information used to ensure the correct labor, machine, tooling, and components are available and ready to use at each processing step, eliminating paperwork, and reducing downtime (Anon., 2010). Raw-materials are consumed, and assemblies created, triggers, by tagging raw materials with detailed specification information for instance, alerts could be automatically triggered at mixing operations if an incorrect formulation is imminent. Documented examples include the following: (Toyota South Africa) Carrier tagged to streamline manufacturing and vehicle tracking. The tags are intended to remain with the vehicle throughout life and hold maintenance history (et.al, 2008).  (Harley Davidson) Process automation used tagging bins carrying parts to provide instructions to employees at process stage.  (Johnson Controls) Tracking of car and truck seat through the assembly process. (TrenStar) Beer keg tracking to improve demand forecasts and improving efficiency. (International Paper) Paper roll tracking at for reduction of lost or misdirected rolls.  (The Gap) Denim apparel tracking to improve customer service through better inventory management.  (Raxel) Tagging reusable plastic biohazard containers to avoid contamination. (Michelin) Tire tagging to comply with the TREAD act and recall management. Wal-Mart buys packaged goods annually, and is looking to RFID to improve visibility into inventories from distribution centers through to retail shelves. Ford Motor Co. has been using RFID tags for this purpose in their facility in Cuautitlan in Mexico as well as in US facilities for a number of years (Baudin, 2005) .

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In case study of Tk Maxx, RFID technology can be used to track every move of a garment in store from a distance by using tiny microchips hooked up to miniature antennas. RFID tags, composed of a chip and antenna, contain an ID number identifying the item to which it is attached, which can then be tracked by RFID reading devices.  TK Maxx RFID to locate store inventory, keep track of inventory and ensure that shelves stay stocked (Vechi, 2017).In the luxury fashion sector, RFID is used with supply chain certification to track items through supply networks in order to guarantee their provenance (Vechi, 2017). By keeping track of products, RFID systems make it possible to track consumers long after purchase and anywhere in the world (Vechi, 2017). Beacon technology, a location-based marketing technology, is used by retailers such as Tk Maxx, Macy’s, Zara and H&M for communications purposes with consumers (Vechi, 2017). Tracking technology allows retailers to gather valuable data about consumers, privacy may be a source of consumer concern (Vechi, 2017) . The main purpose of smart shelves is to prevent out-of-stock situations from occurring at the empty shelf.

2           Section 2- Reflective

This section will provide a response to the two summative assignments that where presented during the course. It will serve as a basis to thoroughly analyse, make judgements and show improvements where necessary.

The first assignment had us draw a level 1 Data Flow Diagram for a music company. After having done the Level 0 diagram my group had to break it down adding processes in-between the entities and removing where we sought necessary. Though the inventory control department had been listed as an entity in class we briefly contemplated on the idea of regarding it as processes instead, the text suggests that a process “transforms information inputs to outputs”while an entity is “origin/ destination of data” (Denis, 2006).Our combined logic surfaced on the question, is the inventory control an origin of data or does it merely transform data between the order processing systems and relay the numbers to the warehouse? However, after discussing with other groups we realized that our idea did not fit with the rules of the DFD diagrams as there is no work being done on the material to deem this a process. Conferring with other groups in relation to our diagram allowed us to appreciate the differences in thought as well as realize the misconceptions made when designing ours.

After discussing our DFD with other groups, we had the chance to critique the other DFD’s posted and pronounce our views. In contrast to our diagram another group had included the customer verification system as a process before the customer order, our group felt it would be an extra unnecessary step to do verification on a customer that has not placed an order yet. Likewise, another groups perspective was to introduce another entity (shipping) and directly link this to the customer and the warehouse, though we agreed on the need for a link between these two entities withal referring to (Ibraham, 2010) ,” An external entity is a person, organization, or system that is external to the system but interact with it” such as we felt shipping cannot be classified as entity and linking two entities would disobey the DFD rules (Sunmola, 2018). Nevertheless, the group discussion on the DFD diagram helped our group enhance our skills in drawing them along with creating a different perspective that will allow us to include all the processes and entities that we missed not to mention remove the ones we did not need.

The second summative assignment had our group discussing the problems of using project crashing techniques as well coming up with ways to fix this. As a group our first question to answer was “what puts managers in a position where they need to crash projects?”. Complying with (I Othman, 2017), we agreed that the root causes of project overruns are bad financial resource management, late design changes and inaccurate evaluation of project duration. Consequent to discussions with other groups we came to the appreciation that project management can be too optimistic and overly positive. Many difficulties subsequently arise when the intended project time is to be reduced, the main being that further decreasing the time for an activity to completed leaves less or no room for adjustments forcing the project manager to work without variance while also adding pressure on the information and material supply which the manager may not have had full control on to begin with.  (M. Orm, 2018) curtained that “accelerating an activity saves time but increases costs. Besides, duration reduction negatively impacts quality because acceleration requires almost always additional manpower, unless in fully automatized production processes, which are far from representing the majority of manufacturing systems in practice” .As a group we felt the managers in particular would face challenges in coordinating not only the resources and manpower to a decreased time schedule but also managing the time and attention spent on subsequent activities in the project plan which will hinder the overall project quality. In the group discussion much attention was given to the same causes and challenges as we had compiled. However, the where some points worth noting that we did not include i.e. root causes of crashing such as hiring a project manager that is lacking in experience and training and poor site coordination.

In conclusion the discussion platform allowed our group to appreciate different ways of analysing the summative questions in addition to providing our view for other groups to digest and correct when necessary. Along with this the platform allowed us to welcome criticism while expressing our views, a skill which we will need in our career progression and future projects. Though we had very convincing arguments our group could have benefited from doing more research and referring to more sources of literature. The exercise allowed to identify the areas we lacked and excelled individually as well as collectively, while serving as a base for improvement for future work. (Baudin, 2005)

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