Advances in Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology mean that it can now be used for more than tracking and tracing from beginning to end of supply chains.
RFID can now also be used to identify points of damage. Texasheadquartered SpotSee has introduced the “ShockWatch® RFID impact indicator”, which is designed to track damage through the supply chain and identify affected inventory. It is reported to be ideally suited to industries such as automotive, medical devices/ equipment and aerospace.
SpotSee has a range of devices which monitor shock, vibration, temperature and other environmental conditions through its brands such as ShockWatch®, ShockLog®, SpotBot™, OpsWatch and WarmMark®. The damage information is delivered in real time to the SpotSee Cloud via SpotSee Connectivity, a low-cost global cellular communication method that works anywhere in the world where there is cellular coverage. SpotSee has its own Mobile Virtual Network, enabling the company to provide clients with global messaging and cloud service connected to their devices in over 180 countries for less than $10 a month. There are no roaming fees.
“RFID technology has already helped companies reduce inventory management costs by seamlessly automating asset identification,” said Angela Kerr, vice president, product portfolio, SpotSee in a press statement. “ShockWatch RFID combines the benefits of traditional RFID inventory management with impactdamage monitoring, allowing users to leverage existing RFID infrastructure to identify and reduce the sources of damage in their supply chain.”
“ShockWatch RFID impact indicators are low-cost, consumable, single-use devices that are tamperproof, fieldarmable and triggered when a damaging impact beyond a specific g-force threshold occurs. Once the threshold is exceeded, the device has both a visual indication, turning the indicator red, and an electronic indication, communicating that damage has occurred when scanned with a reader,” says SpotSee.
AI: Automotive Industries (AI) asked Tony Fonk, CEO of SpotSee, what growth is expected in the RFID tag market.
Fonk: Recent market studies have shown the RFID Market is growing at a compound annual rate of 20%. Some analysts estimate that the market for RFID tags could exceed US$40 billion by 2025. There are two big drivers: Firstly, the costs of readers is coming down significantly (between $5001000 for a high-end reader), and secondly, companies are putting more emphasis on supply chain transparency and the reduction of human error.
AI: What do SpotSee’s supply chain solutions support existing RFID technologies?
Fonk: SpotSee’s ShockWatch RFID solution combines supply chain damage indication with RFID identification, all for very low cost of approximately $1 in volume. On average, when customers implement a SpotSee program they see a 40 to 60% reduction in cost of damage in their profit and loss statement.
All damaged parts are aggregated into a warehouse management system where customers can see which locations or suppliers are causing the most damage in their supply chain. Damage detection is very important as more and more parts have electronics embedded in them. For example, when an impact occurs to an instrument control panel or a bumper with embedded sensors, damage to fragile internal components may not be discovered until the vehicle is assembled. Obviously, this costs significantly more to remedy as opposed to being able to see if an impact has happened before the part is installed on the vehicle.
AI: How can your technology help to reduce damage in automotive supply chains?
Fonk: There are around 100 fragile parts in an automobile out of a total of about 30,000 total parts per car. Examples include radiators, condensers, instrument panels, cockpit modules, window glass, electric batteries and bumpers. We have two solutions for customers. One is SpotBot cellular, which is best applied on automotive racks where either the supplier or the OEM owns the rack. This product gives real-time impact, location, and temperature information and has a best-inclass battery life. One automotive manufacturer used this product to determine where the most impact was being felt on the route the truck was taking from supplier to plant.
The remedy was to repair the road on the way to the facility after they learned where the impacts were occurring. The second product is our ShockWatch RFID that is applied directly onto individual fragile parts. This is an ideal solution for companies that have existing RFID infrastructure.
Our RFID chip easily integrates into existing warehouse management and ERP systems. Often times customers use a SpotBot cellular device to identify the impact threshold that causes damage on a product or part.
Then once the threshold is understood they implement a lower cost Shockwatch or Shockwatch RFID program.
AI: How well does our technology integrate into management systems?
Fonk: For the many stakeholders involved there can be only version of the truth when we use the technology to identify and aggregate the data of where the damage is occurring. This includes suppliers, manufacturers, logistics and freight companies. We have several examples of where our data is integrated directly into our customer’s existing systems such as SAP or freight monitoring services such as Assist Cargo. In addition, we are now working with two major marine cargo insurance companies to develop damage reduction programs for their customers, in order to reduce both claims and premiums.
AI: Is RFID technology becoming more sophisticated? Fonk:
RFID has made significant strides in read range and accuracy over the years. It’s several decades old now and a very well refined technology. RFID is by far the lowest cost means to gather data on your inventory and the condition of inventory. In addition, RFID technology is ubiquitous globally, meaning that it does not require additional certifications by different countries throughout the world. Therefore, in an integrated global supply chain, a supplier does not need to worry about a technology working in one country and not another.
AI: How can SpotSee’s products can be customised by OEMs?
Fonk: Several of our customers have taken our data gathering devices and imported the data via API into their own systems. It can cost up to $30,000 per minute to shut down a car manufacturing line. One major automotive OEM is using our devices and data to identify if impacts have occurred on fragile parts. They have set up automated standard operating procedures that alert their suppliers to turn the truck around and send new parts if an impact threshold has been breached.
AI: How is SpotSee being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Fonk: Obviously in the automotive arena there’s been a significant impact. However, SpotSee serves many different industries across a wide spectrum of economic sectors. In particular, we play a big role in cold chain monitoring for test specimens, vaccines, and other biologics. We played a big role in monitoring temperature with our indicators in the SARS and H1N1 outbreak, and our products go on millions of flu vaccines annually to ensure proper storage and transport temperatures have been maintained.
In the COVID—19 crisis, test kit manufacturers, labs and hospitals are using our products to determine if the test specimens have exceeded Center for Disease Control Guidelines of 8°C. Running diagnostic tests on specimens that have exceeded this threshold can result in false negatives, meaning that a person could be spreading the disease but think they don’t have it. This is a big risk as laboratories are getting backed up and specimens are sitting for 4-10 days…sometimes at room temperature.