Leveraging WinTrax™ Intelligent Logistics RFID Technology to Overcome Inefficiencies and Improve Profitability
Residential vinyl window manufacturers have an all-too familiar and costly production asset management problem, but it can be easily addressed with the right technology.
From start to finish, nearly all windows are produced and shipped without an incident. It is the exceptions that can really add up given the number of windows that are made each day. The moment a window is misplaced or overlooked, the productivity and financial effects start to kick in.
Instead of staying focused on making windows, workers must go on a scavenger hunt of sorts. Unfortunately, this isn’t a game. Time is lost as workers drop what they are doing and start looking for windows that may not be found anytime soon. The search can end, but the manufacturing expenses mount as management decides to remake the window just before the customer’s shipment leaves the dock.
Hidden out of view, a forgotten window may evoke thoughts of the iconic warehouse scene in the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (a movie moment filled with massive numbers of indistinguishable crates). One overlooked window is not a fair comparison. After all, manufacturers have a tolerance for some discrepancies. It is the rising total that becomes the issue day after day and month after month.
A typical 1% or 2% lost window factor translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that hurt margins and profitability that are already under immense pressure from competitive forces and other significant market trends.
GED overcame the known barcoding accuracy shortcomings by developing WinTrax™, the intelligent logistics system that tracks window assemblies through the production process to shipment (inside and outside of facilities).
Using cutting-edge radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, WinTrax software offers window manufacturers a real-time view of window components (WIP) and completed windows (finished goods) – marked with uniquely-encoded tags – as they pass through gateways at each production stage.
Until now, companies have guarded against window tracking and management problems with barcodes. However, they are not perfect. Human error is the main problem along with some barcode scanning equipment issues that arise. As a result, documenting and tracing window components issues persist. Here is a quick comparison:
- Barcode = 90.2%
- RFID has a 99.8% accuracy reading (and the operator does not have to do anything)
What is the payoff with RFID and WinTrax? Companies gain complete visibility of any window and reduce material, labor, and production costs. And one of the best parts? Manufacturers can do all of that without disrupting their workers and operations.
“WinTrax is the fundamental platform that gives the customer the tool they need to build a very powerful tracking production management system,” said Tim McGlinchy, Executive Vice President of Engineering and R&D at GED. “The system is going to provide immediate pay back by realized efficiencies of not remaking lost windows and by providing the ability to get windows through production in a very predictable manner.”
- Decreased materials, labor, and production costs by tracking of products within and after manufacturing
- Increased customer service – providing customers with product status throughout the process
- Validates that the windows have left the building
- Process Transparency – ensures the window is being routed within the plant correctly
- Integrate into equipment – drive production requirements
- Hands-free – no manual scanning – is automatic
The Numbers Tell the Story
- 1000 windows a day
- 0.8% of all windows are lost
- Average cost is $100 per window
- Total lost inventory is $200,000 per year
- Search cost = 3 or 4 hours of searching per day ($20,000 per year)
- Bar coding scanning is 90% to 95% accurate
1000 WINDOWS PER DAY = $220K IN SAVINGS PER YEAR!
The Problem with Barcodes
Barcoding is a popular and familiar way to identify products and track them during production. But there are vulnerabilities that affect the reliability of barcodes. Their accuracy depends on how the label:
- Is printed before it is used in production
- Attaches to a cart, window component or completed window
- And whether an operator manages to record it correctly with a handheld barcode reader
Barcoding has other drawbacks that have nothing to do with whether a cart is set aside (and forgotten), IG units that cannot be found or when someone loses track of a window. With barcodes, a worker must spend time scanning each one. WinTrax gateways – not individuals – record the RFID tagged carts and window components at key production stages and loading docks. In other words, human interaction is not needed, which helps maximize productivity.
Rather than invest in new RFID technology for windows, some corporate executives may simply insist that production operators do a better job scanning barcodes. Even with some improvement, barcoding will still be inferior RFID’s accuracy. The ROI on WinTrax can be realized in as little as year.
Why Manufacturers Welcome WinTrax
Vinyl window manufacturers have long been frustrated with productivity problems at every level:
- Workers needing to take time to scan barcodes (sometimes not scanning them correctly)
- Hunting down missing window components and carts
- Remaking windows to get them in the hands-on customers
One of GED’s customers, a residential window manufacturer, produces 1.4 million windows a year. Along the way, the company loses track of tens of thousands of windows that must be reproduced. WinTrax quickly made a difference.
The tracking data also provides critical insights about overall production flow.
Managers can monitor IG units on carts throughout the production process, including the glazing departments and the docking bays. WinTrax tracks them at RFID gateways as they pass through production stages and into the correct trucks.
The company does not just keep an eye out for a stray cart or completed window (both have tags). The tracking data also provides critical insights about overall production flow. Executives can quickly learn how long it takes for window components like IG units and windows to make it to new locations in a manufacturing facility or as they travel outside on their way to either a painting operation or distribution center.
Without WinTrax, a distribution center worker may waste time continuously looking for cart in a staging area in between buildings. Similarly, WinTrax solves other problems. In a busy production facility with many departments, it is possible for a cart to end up in the wrong glazing lane. Workers can immediately detect and resolve the problem.
RFID Handheld Reader
Unlike barcode scanners, the WinTrax handheld accessory has a limited purpose and is rarely used (meaning it hardly affects production). In the rare event that a cart or window is misplaced, a worker can head toward the last known tracked location and use the RFID reader to detect a tag up to 10 feet away. The screen includes a directional arrow and the device beeps more rapidly as it nears the tag on a cart or window component (similar to a Geiger counter). It is like using a keyless entry remote to find the right car or truck in a parking lot.
How WinTrax Works
Through a combination of passive RFID tags and WinTrax gateways, you can track window components and completed windows within the window production facility. You can have confidence that windows are following the right process flow with software controls. Ultimately, you can easily verify the product was loaded onto the right truck.
- GED WinTrax printed labels have a small chip and RFID antenna embedded
- Labels can be printed with human-readable information and encoded with a unique window identifier
- No need to change your process – print in the office in batch or on demand at the point of use
One key advantage of WinTrax is that it is a web-based system. The server runs either on a VM (Virtual Machine) or on a physical server in your facility, but all the other external connections to it are web-based. You could call up WinTrax screens from any tablet or smart device within the facility and access many of the screens viewable inside the WinTrax system itself.
As these passive tags pass through each one of the gateways, they are energized (there is no battery or power to them until they are read from the different gateways). So, each tag is energized, its information read, and transmitted back to the centralized WinTrax server.
- Gateways located throughout the plant receive information back from the encoded chips
- Each time a chip is read the information is stored in a database and updates the scan history for that unit
- Transporting by lift truck does not affect read rate
- Remote tag reading
- Each window uniquely identified
- Labels can be printed & encoded at point of use
- Economical consumable costs
- WinTrax gateways actively scan to show last known location for each window
- Configurable to your plant layout
- Know when a product does not follow proper process sequence
- WinTrax can either be used independently or with other GED Software products
- Gateways read multiple labels instantaneously
- Gain insight into your manufacturing process
Standard Equipment & Options
- WinTrax Console—links RFID tags and gateways to tracking database
- WinTrax Gateway—proprietary design optimized for high-density RFID tag reads
- WinTrax Labels—RFID tags embedded within thermal printable labels
- WinTrax Printer—printer to both encode and print WinTrax labels
With WinTrax, you can easily access data to see what is happening with your production assets – whether you track a sea of carts, IG units, or completed windows. Determine where a window goes through your facility (and how long each stage takes). Change your production process to become more efficient. Set new goals with the support of WinTrax.
Save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year as you improve productivity and enjoy seeing a 1% to 2% lost window total drop in a significant way. WinTrax complements your operations without requiring production operators to take on new tasks.
Want to know how much money you could save on every window you produce using WinTrax Intelligent Logistics system? Use the online calculator to see your savings or contact GED at 330-963-5401.
Leave no window behind.