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Go From Paper Labels to Smart Materials

From the Internet of Things to Industry 4.0, manufacturing is changing. Paper labels no longer fit process complexities — what’s required is an optimal flexibility and quality assurance.

For 40 years, paper has been a trusted flag in manufacturing, providing sequential work instructions for operators. This simple visual cue has been the core of a process which balances production and creates more efficient just-in time inventory. It may then be a surprise to many who work in the industry to find out that the static paper-based, or kanban systems that have been at the core of Material Flow Management for decades are also the number-one cause of factory inefficiency today.

With Technology and Customization Trends Expanding — How Do Factories Keep Up? 

Despite the need to change, it’s easy to see why other systems have been unsuccessful in replacing traditional paper: paper is simple, reliable, visual and familiar to the workforce. 

However, it’s highly inflexible. Once the paper label is placed onto a container and launched into the process, its instructions or trajectory cannot be changed without a significant amount of human resources or costly manual work-arounds. It cannot be tracked or communicate with robots or machines on the line.  A next-generation system ideally needs all these attributes while still retaining the simplicity and reliability of paper. 

Enter the IIoT and Smart Materials

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been a key driver to bring new interactive technologies to existing processes like material flow management. This demand for technology to make material “Smart” has resulted in an innovative combination of e-Paper, RF communication and simple business logic called ProVIEW.

In most factories, the scheduling team meets in the mornings to determine the demand for the day and create the jobs and output for the day. The schedule is committed to hundreds of paper labels with instructions upon them and manually affixed to the racks of materials for the day. What if something goes wrong? Will you make the schedule for the day?

Instead, a wirelessly updated, e-paper “View” tag is placed on containers routing through the manufacturing process. Unlike paper, the location aware tags change instructions along the route to tell operators what to do with them next and where to go if there are bottlenecks or other issues. These “Smart Materials” also become immediately traceable in
real time.

E-paper directly replaces the paper — fitting seamlessly into existing process — with minimal to no training for operators! This system is the first of its kind to provide paperless, wireless and interactive Material Flow Management along with end-to-end process visibility. 

Every rack, item, container on the factory floor is tracked by its location, state and condition — which can be dynamically changed at any time to accommodate a work flow change. Repurposing some material for another part of the line or staging it to balance flow? No problem. Machine is down and material needs to be re-routed to optimize output? ProVIEW can take care of that.

See how Daimler Trucks and others are using ProVIEW to optimize their Material Flow Management processes

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