A staple in the automotive industry, tires are also an integral part of the aerospace and other heavy machinery sectors. At the outset, tires might seem rudimentary and simplistic. However, the tire industry has seen a lot of innovations, one of them being RFID. Before exploring the impact of this technology on the tire industry, the basic functioning of RFID will be examined.
What is RFID & how does it work?
An abbreviation for Radio Frequency Identification, RFID utilizes electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling to identify an object or entity.
This technology comprises three components, the antenna, the transceiver and the transponder. The former two components work together to form the RFID reader, while the latter is the RFID tag. The reader can be stationary or mobile, sending a signal to activate the transponder. Once activated, the transponder or the tag reverts to the antenna with a signal of its own. This signal is translated into readable data.
As is evident, the RFID tags must encode the vital information that can be received by the RFID reader. To do this effectively, a tag is made of an integrated circuit, a substrate and a receiving antenna. Furthermore, it may or may not have its power source. An active RFID tag has an independent power source such as a battery, and a passive RFID tag is solely operated by the reader.
Lastly, RFID technology is affected by the distance between the reader and the tag. Hence, it is vital to opt for an active version for longer distances, as the additional power enables a farther read range.
Why RFID in tires?
Now, how does this technology correlate to the tire industry? The purpose of using RFID in tires is to increase global connectivity of technical information, facilitating further innovation in the field. It also aids in tracking the condition of the tire throughout its lifespan. From manufacturing and vulcanization to coupling, all can be monitored with RFID. Furthermore, the technology is best suited for the industry as they are robust, can handle active movement, are impossible to remove and are permanently readable due to a passive RFID tag.
With the basic functioning and importance of RFID becoming apparent, it’s time to examine the 3 major RFID trends in the tire manufacturing industry.
3 Ways RFID Is Changing the Tire Industry
- Cradle-To-Grave tire tracking
An innovative solution devised by Michelin, cradle-to-grave is a feature that allows the company to track each tire from the moment of manufacturing to the end of its lifespan. The goal behind this idea is to constantly monitor the condition of a tire, thereby improving maintenance in the current batch and eliminating these problems in future batches.
Therefore, all the technical information of the tire such as width, model, aspect ratio, batch number and more will be stored in the passive RFID tag. This data can prove to be extremely useful when a car is taken to a repair shop. A qualified repair shop with an RFID reader can easily scan the tag and immediately identify the lot number of the particular tire. Hence, if a batch produced multiple malfunctioning tires, and the same batch number is reflected via the scanner, then the repair shop can ascertain if it is qualified for a recall. Therefore, the prevalence of faulty tires on the roads will reduce significantly, improving customer experience and safety standards.
This service extends to new tire installations as well. For instance, if a customer is looking for a tire change, a repair shop technician can quickly scan a new piece to check if it is compatible with the car or not. In this manner, all manual guesswork can be effectively removed from the system, ensuring better tire compatibility. Unsurprisingly, with such technological innovation in their possession, Michelin has pledged to add RFID tags on all their new by 2023.
- Inventory management
The benefits of RFID technology aren’t limited only to manufacturers. Vendors too can capitalize on this innovation to get exceptional results. One such field where vendors can particularly benefit is inventory management. A complex process involving constant monitoring, tracking, planning and storing data, performing this task manually is quite challenging. However, with the aid of RFID technology and inventory software, vendors can make a real difference in terms of stock management.
Since the tires are encoded with these tags, it becomes convenient for vendors to track a particular tire, its lot and source of origin. Thus, in case of malfunction, they can recall or resend a certain tire or batch to the right destination by a simple scan. Furthermore, vendors can analyze market data to determine which tire is selling the most, and order more of those for their inventory. Consequently, it will boost sales and help prevent stockouts. Additionally, stocking excessive inventory can also be avoided.
Another exceptional benefit of using RFID tags and better inventory management practices is an increase in tire recycling. The number of tires being recycled can be identified by various methods, known as proof of recycling. However, more conventional methods tend to be unreliable in this case. By introducing RFID-based proof of recycling methods, the number of tires being recycled can be accurately tracked. In this manner, it can be ascertained if a company is following recycling regulations. Ultimately, using tires in landfill or burning them for fuel can be avoided altogether, the latter still being a major contributor to air pollution in many countries.
- RFID in the manufacturing process
The importance of RFID for repair shops and vendors is evident in the previous points. Apart from aiding in tire maintenance and tracking outside the warehouse, RFID can be quite useful in the manufacturing process as well. The same RFID and inventory management software can be utilized in a warehouse to monitor and improve the efficiency of tire manufacturing.
For instance, the tire building machines, which are responsible for creating the equipment, can be fitted with these tags in various sections. The multiple parts and tools, fitted with the appropriate RFID tags, can help companies to determine if the production processes and materials are up to standard.
Apart from the core machines, the tags can prove to be useful even for raw material containers. Using tags here can help determine the flow of the material from the initial phase to the final finished product. It can also help manufacturers keep track of the quantity of raw material, ensuring timely replenishment of the product.
Lastly, this technology can be introduced to transportation facilities within the warehouse. Equipment such as trolleys, unmanned vehicles, belt conveyors and more can be fitted with RFID tags to track the movement of finished products and raw materials. Monitoring this can lead to an improvement in production throughput without compromising on quality.
Thus, by using tags in all three sections in tandem, companies can assess the efficiency of their entire manufacturing process, enabling them to improve, maintain or overhaul the entire infrastructure on the basis of this data.
To sum it up, with major companies like Michelin taking the first step to incorporate RFID technology in tires, it is clear that the industry is due for a major transformation in the coming years. Hopefully, these positive changes will spur more innovations and improve tire quality and performance even further.