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RFID will allow the parts history to be stored on a chip built into or put onto every part, Roberti says. "This means that someone working on a plane on the tarmac could read a tag and know everything about a part," he says. "Airbus and Boeing are both pushing for this solution, so it looks like it will gain some traction."
Companies that have implemented the technology in various industries report a variety of benefits.
Mission Foods Corp., an Irving, Texas, supplier of food products, since 2009 has been relying on RFID to track reusable plastic trays that it uses to transport packaged food products within its warehouse and out to customers.
Prior to implementing the system, each year the company was losing thousands of the plastic trays to theft and misplacement, at a cost of about $3.5 million.
"By using RFID to track our containers we have seen a significant reduction of our use of corrugated boxes and the reduction on purchasing plastic trays as well," says Eduardo Valdes, vice president of MIS at Mission Foods. "We continue to use plastic boxes that are 3 years old and have [traveled] a few thousand miles."
The company also plans to use RFID to track pallets, racks and other assets that go in and out of its warehouse.
Another company, TekEase (formerly Dr. Know PC Medic), a Peoria, Ill., company that provides on-site technology service and repair to residential clients and small to midsize businesses, uses RFID to track tools and other assets on its vans.
The company, which will soon launch a national franchise, in 2010 began using a fleet of vehicles that came with a built-in RFID system that could be used for managing tools, inventory and equipment used in servicing clients.
TekEase tags all its important or expensive tools, equipment and other inventory. Prior to implementing the RFID system, tool requirements for specific jobs were kept on lists with checkboxes, and technicians would need to look at each required tool and verify that he had it. The process had to be repeated at the end of each service trip, in order to verify that nothing was left behind at a job site.
With the system in place, before a technician goes on a job, he opens an application on an in-dash computer in the vehicle and selects the appropriate job type. The system automatically reads the tags of all tagged items in the vehicle and looks for the tags associated with the particular job type.
If any tags or items are missing, the system lists missing items, and the technician knows to look elsewhere for the items before leaving for the job visit.
When a job is complete, the technician loads the tools in the truck and uses the RFID system to make sure all the tools are in the vehicle.