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Tracking Assets: RFID Meets Industrial Wi-Fi – Industrial Ethernet Book Part 1

October 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm PST

I had the pleasure of meeting up with both Leo Ploner, Publishing Director, Industrial Ethernet Book (IEB) and Tom McNulty from the Chicago, US office recently here in Silicon Valley recently. I was pleased to see that Cisco had contributed to an article in the 65 / 35 Issue of the Industrial Ethernet Book around the topic of RFID and industrial WiFi – a topic close to my own heart in terms of previous blogs of mine (Intro to RFID, Continental Tire, Boeing, and John Deere).

The first Industrial Ethernet Book was published in 1999.  Since then it become an excellent  information source for industrial networking and communication technology, and aims to provide unbiased editorial views focused on both process and discrete manufacturing industries. The editorial content is aimed at end users, system integrators and vendors within factory automation and process automation.

The article starts with the recognition that “Increasingly ‘smart’ devices, which include radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and sensors that have advanced diagnostics, are contributing to the billions of devices now connected to IP networks. This proliferation of smart devices is referred to by some as the ‘Internet of Things’, and it is projected to grow to trillions of devices that will be connected using the emerging IPv6 protocol (ref1). For manufacturers, a growing number of connected smart devices promises to revolutionise portability, mobility, context-aware condition and use of critical assets.” Read More »

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John Deere avoids cost with Cisco Wireless Architecture

September 29, 2011 at 11:40 am PST

Maybe you’ve seen the recent article in RFID Journal: John Deere Planter Factory Gains Efficiency.

John Deere, working with integration and technology partners Prime Technologies (now Kubica) and AeroScout, used the existing Cisco Wi-Fi networking nodes that it had already installed throughout the facility to avoid the expense of installing RFID readers for a new manufacturing solution.

John Deere MaxEmergeXP

Here’s the story: John Deere’s  Seeding Group factory in Moline, Ill. was seeking an automated solution to improve on its manual work in process manufacturing system.  It wanted to increase efficiency in the way it replenished welding material as well as improve the way it carried out processes at its assembly stations at the plant. The factory in question assembles John Deere’s  row-crop planter machines -- the MaxEmerge XP range -  that are used by farmers to deposit a variety of seed in soils and seedbeds.

The new system uses a wireless back-haul to a Cisco infrastructure that enables the SAP, reporting and programmable logic controller (PLC) systems to communicate live.  It’s intended to improve material replenishment and reduce delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas.  It allows the equipment manufacturer’s kitting staff to boost material replenishment speed, and allows assembly workers to prepare for specific equipment as it approaches their assembly stations. The RFID Journal Story goes into excellent detail on the wip process and the process improvement, but I did want to reiterate some of the key business metrics:

“Our goal was to improve Takt time *,” says Shay O’Neal, John Deere Seeding Group’s project manager, who expects the reduction to increase from what he estimates may be about 5 percent improvement in Takt time thus far. He reckons there has been a 40 percent reduction in cycle time because of the improvement in replenishment. He has also seen a decrease in overtime work undertaken by kitting staff at the welding station. “I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the system met our needs,” O’Neal said in the RFID Journal article.

  • John Deere has seen a 40 percent increase in efficiency in welding due to improvements in material replenishment and fewer delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas.
  • On the assembly line, the system provides a view into the work in process (WIP), which thus far has reduced the cycle time (Takt) it takes to assemble a single product by about 5 percent.
  • Since existing Cisco Wi-Fi nodes read the RFID tag of each seeder as it passes from one assembly station to another, indicating where it has been and what its next assembly location will be, John Deere avoided the expense of installing RFID readers.

Read More »

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Boeing Delivers First 787 Dreamliner. Cisco Delivers Solutions to Boeing. Congratulations Both!

September 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm PST

Congratulations to Boeing on shipping it’s first 787 Dreamliner to ANA (All Nippon Airways). The world has been waiting and US Manufacturing has delivered. But it’s not just US Manufacturing -- suppliers as far away as Australia, Italy, Japan and Russia, to name but a few countries have been working with Boeing Engineers to bring the airplane to market -- and using Cisco or Cisco Partner technologies to do so!

The video, courtesy Associated Press’ YouTube Channel, shows the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner Airplane being handed over by Jim Albaugh, President and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, to ANA’s President and CEO - with a large key!

Jim does talk about the delays -- but it was such a vast undertaking -- and in the ‘old days’ it would have taken a lot longer! There are plenty of Manufacturing improvements that have taken place over the decades that have helped speed things up. Here are three Cisco Solution areas where Cisco and its partners made a difference: Cisco WebEx, Cisco MMVC (Manufacturing Mobile Video Collaboration) Solution, and Cisco Context aware, many using Cisco Unified Industrial Architectures. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 for any manufacturer who wants to know the secrets. Here’s how, and with customer comments to boot

Read More »

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RFID: Context Aware and Location – a Brief History & Introduction

March 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm PST

My distant relative - Flight Lieutenant KJP Granger (Royal Air Force) and his DH82A Gipsy Moth - did the forerunner of RFID save him from being shot down?

Some of the best technological advances are made during times of conflict. Sad that it should be so, but the silver lining is that many of the advances are focused on defending, protecting and shielding people. Active RFID, the kind of solution provided by Cisco and AeroScout, in many ways started out that way.

Looking back decades to WWII, radar was already being developed in ernest by the British in the run-up to the second world war. Many countries were developing radar at that time, but most folks agree that Robert Watson Watt, later Sir Robert, was the prime mover-and-shaker.  It took US marketing (in the form of the US Navy) to coin the term RADAR, for radio detection and ranging.

So where does Context Aware Location RFID come in? Well, whilst radar itself was useful, the  British needed to know whether those planes coming over the English Channel were returning Spitfires and allied bombers, or attacking Luftwaffe aircraft. It was the same Watson-Watt that helped produce the ‘Identification friend or foe’ (IFF) system that  used a transponder on the allied aircraft that was ‘excited’ by the radar system and actively sent back a signal to the base saying friend. My own cousin, Flight Lieutenant KJP Granger, Officer Trainer RAF, was grateful for that!

Now fast forward decades to today. The technology for today’s RFID is a little different, but the concept is the same. So let’s keep the aeronautical theme going and talk about Boeing and its use of RFID.      Read More »

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