Consumer goods have dominated the radio-frequency identification (RFID) discussion for so long that most of us tend to think small when we talk about tracking products with RFID tags.
But not POSCO. The South Korean manufacturing, power, and services conglomerate is thinking big—very big—when it comes to RFID. The company has implemented a proprietary RFID-based logistics system to track and trace huge steel coils at two of its manufacturing plants.
The RFID system includes DogBone paper-based UHF tags from the Finnish technology company UPM, hand-held industrial PDAs, RFID readers attached to cranes and placed at factory gates, enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution systems, and a server. POSCO tags the metal coils during packaging, and the tags are read when the coils are moved by cranes to the warehouse, during storage, and again when they're prepped for shipment.
Implementing RFID in steel mills is challenging because metal interferes with RF signals' readability. To address that problem, POSCO is using modified UHF tags that have two antennas and are applied upright inside the metal coils, perpendicular to the items' curved surfaces.
In addition to enabling product traceability, the RFID system has helped POSCO reduce packaging and shipping errors, allowed customers to use a Web-based interface to electronically track their orders, and cut costs by US $1.4 million per month, according to a press release issued by the company and UPM. More savings are on the way: Starting in October, POSCO will extend the system to all of its steel products, tagging some 2 million items annually.