Authors: Pat Mitchell and Dan Hirsh

What if you could keep track of manufacturing processes without having to hunt for work in progress (WIP), retrieve carts or pallets or search for a special tool or fixture? Wandering the warehouse in search of these things is a waste of time and resources, and costs money without generating income. What if you never needed to search again? Any time spent that is not specifically changing product form, fit, or function is waste. However, with the right tools from AeroScout, manufacturers can locate anything or anyone in their facility.

Before you can attack waste associated with manufacturing, you must first visualize it. Live, accurate WIP tracking can identify where flow gets congested, products misdirected, and orders lost. A real-time location system (RTLS) can also monitor specialized tools, fixtures, carts, and other equipment. RTLS can measure product movement and track any and every order through a multistage assembly and test process. Imagine a solution that records movement from place to place, automatically time-stamping every value-added activity. This makes it possible to identify areas where the waste is hiding. After all, if you don’t know where the bottlenecks are, how can you devise strategies to eliminate them? RTLS can also track people, so you can find critical team members when you need them.

The Advantage of Wi-Fi Infrastructure

AeroScout delivers complete location-based services and enterprise visibility solutions that take advantage of a Cisco wireless infrastructure.  AeroScout, part of Stanley Black & Decker, is a global market leader in enterprise visibility solutions using standard Wi- Fi networks. Its systems can track and monitor the quantity, location, condition (temperature, humidity, etc.), and status of inventory, as well as mobile assets and people equipped with a unique tag. The company invented the first Wi-Fi-based active RFID tag, and today it is widely recognized as a market-leading Wi-Fi RTLS provider. In a recent blog, my colleague Chet Namboodri details Stanley Black & Decker’s results of a new Connected Factory Wireless implementation conducted with Cisco and AeroScout Industrial.

Unique, identifiable RFID tags are small and inexpensive, and they can be attached to virtually any item. They can identify and locate devices, tools, work pieces, and more in a manufacturing context. Used heavily in large discrete manufacturing facilities, the tags communicate with Wi-Fi networks and provide location information based on triangulation between access points. The video below provides a good overview of additional use cases.

Manufacturing companies are profiting from real-time location systems – here’s how:

  • A major tire plant produces 1000 different car and truck tire products in a 2.6 million square foot facility. Tire curing machines needed to be full for maximum batch efficiency and to maintain production levels. Previously, sub-optimal management of green tire inventory on the floor left too many curing slots empty. Meanwhile, green tires were being scrapped in other parts of the plant. Confusion caused waste of both green and cured tires. Adding tags to each product carrier allowed managers to monitor inventory across the entire facility. Improvements were widespread: more efficient curing, production closer to schedule, less labor overtime, waste reduction, and fewer physical inventory counts of WIP.
  • An architectural glass fabricator builds outer walls for commercial and institutional buildings in three facilities across the United States. Their manufacturing process uses thousands of individual carriers that transport glass for custom orders. As the orders move through nearly 20 tempering, lamination, vacuum, and other process steps, workers would see their share of breakage, lost inventory, and remakes. The company needed a solution that would help locate any job within five minutes, and that solution had to fit into the current networking infrastructure, with easy deployment and minimal maintenance. The Wi- Fi-based RTLS system monitors projects using the company’s existing Cisco Wi-Fi network and increased carrier location accuracy from 60 percent to well over 90 percent. It has also reduced total glass scrap by 65 percent. In addition, the company has reduced staging losses by 55 percent and repurposed 16 full-time employees previously assigned to find glass throughout the facility.

Cisco and AeroScout bring both technologies together to operate seamlessly. Manufacturers can benefit from a robust solution that supports more cost-effective manufacturing by removing unnecessary fat from your lean manufacturing operation. Why continue to waste money searching for critical people, equipment, and materials? Find out how Cisco and AeroScout can create a real-time location system for you.


Pat Mitchell

Solutions Architect, Manufacturing and Supply Chain

Americas Business Transformation