Before implementing radio frequency identification (RFID), Gerdau, in Ouro Branco (MG), used barcodes as the main product identifier. In the process of migration to RFID inlays, the barcode will be kept only as a contingency. Radio communication is used for receiving, shipping and inventory, increasing the risk of human error, according to Márcio Kiyoshi Ouchi, site logistics manager. In the process of receiving and shipping products, it is necessary to beep label by label, using a manual collector. “After implanting the RFID, we will use the readers of the cranes and RFID collectors, which can read all the desired products with just one command”.
The main benefits that will be obtained with the system are related to the safety of people involved in the process, removing them from receiving them on the floor, enhancing the operation of cranes and forklifts. According to Ouchi, it will be possible to increase inventory control and warehouse management, optimizing internal logistics processes, thereby increasing employee productivity.The company will also reduce overnight rates due to reduced loading times for trucks and wagons, with lower customer complaints for product shipping errors. “We were also able to increase the use of assets, such as trucks, forklifts and cranes,” he explained. “In the shipping process, it is necessary to climb on trucks and wagons to collect the materials; after RFID implantation, it will not be necessary, since the loading and reading of the products will take place”.
The inventory process will show productivity gains, says Ouchi. “Currently it is necessary to read tag by tag, needing to move materials that are in high stacks and after implantation of the RFID, we will do mass inventory, without the need to move products”. The RFID implantation follows the recording standard EPC SGTIM Class 1, Generation 2, 96 bits, from GS1. “The greatest benefit will be the ease of traceability of Gerdau’s products and assets moved to other productive locations, such as other plants or business units”.
Fixed readers are installed on overhead cranes, forklifts and portals for reading vehicles and associating their loads. Mobile readers will serve ground operations for the wire and profile business. “The readers are from several brands such as Impinj, Zebra, Acura and some other brands, with a total of 40 readers,” says Ouchi. The product tags are from CCRR, HID floor and crane position from Omni ID.
“A series of challenges have occurred since the first pilot in 2017,” says Ouchi, “because the environment is extremely metallic and with very limited distances between products. To ensure the fidelity of the readings associated with the speed and agility of the movements, some strategies were adopted, such as reading filters, business rules and studies on the positioning of antennas ”. The RFID solution is integrated with the company’s SAP ERP, on local servers.
Ouchi clarifies that “traceability will be present in the entire logistical process of wire rod and structural profile products, for the Ouro Branco unit, will go through all the processes mapped in the solution’s BluePrint”. The executive explains: “Among the processes, we will have traceability in the birth of the product for logistics (receipt), its movements, picking orders (loading), inventories and processes related to the business such as item reclassification, code change and other processes. The solution will be born with the recording of the label when it is attached to the product and all its movements and procedures captured by RFID by portals, forklifts, overhead cranes and collectors. In turn, all operations captured by RFID will be integrated with SAP and other systems, speeding up the entire logistics process”.
Through the RFID middleware, it will be possible to read the products and addresses, make the association of the products and addresses, consolidate the second level interface communication – PLC, MES, etc. – and promote the management of data and information capture points. “EY‘s delivery methodology [Gerdau’s partner in implementing RFID] contains a series of dimensions that cover the needs of each business,” he explained. “Even though it is a single plant in Ouro Branco, the business rules for the logistical operations of Profile are not always equivalent to that of Fio Máquina products. This will make it possible to deliver the results without a main supplier for the solution, as each member of the solution will have its function defined in the EY framework and the possible impacts among the solution’s members”.
EY and Gerdau have a relationship of more than 10 years in technology projects, from global SAP implementation projects, demand management and others. Since then, EY has provided partnerships and solutions with an agnostic approach, based on the conditions that Gerdau needs.
“All projects that combine innovation, change in operational processes, organizational changes, technologies and major infrastructure projects challenge everyone involved in the project. These are challenges such as new technical knowledge, deepening of processes and their exceptions, involvement with different areas and departments with different responsibilities and priorities. Gerdau has innovation and the search for performance in its DNA, and understands that this process, when well founded and executed, is very positive ”.