Headaches and Inefficiency, Asset Tracking with RFID Cures Both

Excel Manufacturing partnered with SimplyRFiD to create an RFID asset tracking system that allows them to stay on top of their business like never before.

Online PR News – 10-November-2009 – – By: Ashley Lange, November 10, 2009

We all know the frustration of losing articles of clothing. From the lost sock in the dryer to a misplaced shirt in the back of the closet, even the smallest of wardrobes lose items. It's a frustration everyone dreads.

Now imagine dreading that frustration a thousand times a day, and you're beginning to understand the feeling Excel Manufacturing wants to avoid at all costs. Excel Manufacturing is headquartered in El Paso, Texas, and is a leading supplier of Air Force Airmen Battle Uniforms, or ABUs. They ship thousands of uniforms to the Air Force daily. While most uniforms arrive in perfect order, the company works hard avoiding even occasional mistakes.

Excel Manufacturing teamed with SimplyRFiD, an RFID Asset Tracking supplier to place a hi-tech tag on every item they produce. These are not just labels, like you pull off the back of your shirt. SimplyRFiD makes Radio Frequency Identification labels – RFID Tags, for short. When these RFID tags are affixed to one single item they create a radio signal that allows each item to be tracked and found. With the tags in place, Excel is now able to pinpoint exactly how many items they have produced that hour, where they are and, when they can ship. Their system automatically checks the Air Force order to see if they are ahead of schedule and keeps them on-track to produce the right product on-time.

SimplyRFiD's solution involves their proprietary system called Nox. This system combines high-powered RFID tag readers, high-definition video cameras, an automated software system and millions of item-level RFID tags. Automatically scanning for the RFID tags, Nox identifies and tracks the garments as they move around the manufacturing floor and on to their final destination.

“Before using this technology, we were dependent on tracking by hand, literally using pen and paper,” says Jose Luis Ortega Jr, Vice President of Excel Manufacturing. “With the Nox system, asset tracking becomes valuable information and gives us a competitive edge.”

The day-to-day operations of the system are straightforward. The software automatically receives an order from the Department of Defense's VIM-ASAP system. The VIM stands for "Virtual Item Management," and is the Internet-based data storage site where manufacturers like Excel can get access to and download the information about their orders. Once the orders are downloaded, Nox creates an order queue for Excel to produce and tag each garment assigned to that order. Each garment is tracked from the moment it is requested by the Department of Defense until it gets loaded onto pallets and shipped away.

“One of the reasons we are excited about this system is because it is automated,” Ortega Jr. says. “This frees up the employees to handle other tasks without having to worry about entering data or sending information to the DoD.” Excel's previous system required them to guess how many items they would ship that day and pre-print labels to attach to items. The new Nox system produces tags on-demand as they are needed. In other words: The system adapts to the work in process and makes it more efficient for Excel to manufacture clothing rather than manage their label system.

With Nox, cameras also automatically record each event. A video record of each item's whereabouts is placed into a searchable database which allows the manager of the system to quickly look up each item movement.

"The beauty of the system is its ease of use," says Alice Richmond, vice president of SimplyRFiD. "It's possible to track every single item at every major point in its journey. For example, if there were a concern about an order shipped on August 28th, that date could be typed in to the search box. Immediately all records for that day, including all videos recorded, would appear. It's possible to get even more specific than that. Typing in the ID numbers, or even just the sizes and date, prompts all relevant information and videos to appear”, says Richmond.