| Written by Christian Aadal
If you're looking to increase efficiency in your manufacturing processes, you may be considering an RTLS (Real Time Locating System). But before making a decision on which system to choose, there are a few things you need to consider.
In our latest whitepaper, we'll walk you through some questions to ask yourself about your manufacturing process and environment. By answering these questions, you'll be better equipped to select the RTLS solution that best fits your needs.
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Today there are a lot of buzzwords in the world of increasing efficiency in manufacturing environments, such as IIoT, Industry 4.0, Industry 5.0, etc. However, they have in common that each term refers to industrial changes where technology and smart automation are utilized to improve processes and manufacturing patterns.
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RTLS (Real Time Locating System) is one of the technologies which can be used for precisely this.
There are several things to consider when you are in the selection stage of an RTLS solution. One of the first things that need to be done is to look at your manufacturing processes and environment and ask yourself some questions such as:
The recommendation is always to use a vendor that is capable of guiding you through and speaks the ‘industrial language’ to help answer questions like the ones above and are able to propose the best possible RTLS solution for your needs and how it can fit into your existing manufacturing processes.
The most usual reason an RTLS solution doesn’t work as expected is that requirements have not been adequately communicated by the customer or are not correctly understood by the vendor. It is therefore always essential that the system requirements are well thought through.
Let me provide an example:
A car manufacturer wants an RTLS solution to manage and locate cars in their parking areas at the production facility. In the RFI (Request for Information) letter to the potential vendor, it is specified that the system needs accuracy of 10cm +/- 2cm, which is within the specification of what the vendor can provide. Next, a site survey is carried out, and the project rollout starts. Finally, after commissioning and site acceptance, it goes into production, and everything is fine, except for one thing… Why did they pay so much for a system that provides 10cm +/- 2cm accuracy when they actually needed a system that would tell them which parking slot each vehicle is parked in?
The chosen RTLS solution should always be within the expected requirements, as long as the requirements are realistically defined according to the needs.
Below is a list of questions you can ask yourself to avoid unrealistic requirements.
There is a big world of various RTLS solutions, with differences between technologies, accuracy, area of usage, range and scalability. To be able to choose the right RTLS solution for your needs, it all depends on the plans for end usage.
With the answers to the questions in chapters 1 and 2, you should be able to navigate the matrix below to see which RTLS solution initially would suit your needs the best.
|Accuracy||Area of usage||Scalability||Range||Summary|
|Barcode||Manual scanning location||Indoor/outdoor||Very scalable||Very short||Effective for manual identification, but no possibility for automatic localization|
|RFID||Last 'scan' accuracy||Indoor/outdoor||Very scalable||Up to 500m||Effective for asset detection, but not for automatic localization|
|UWB||~10cm - 1m||Indoor/outdoor||Very scalable||Up to 100m||Effective for precise asset localization|
|BLE||~2m - 3m||Mainly indoor||Limited||Up to 100m||Effective for zone-based asset localization|
|WiFi||~3m||Indoor/outdoor||Very scalable||Up to 50m||Effective for zone-based asset localization in small scale|
|Chirp||~50cm - 1,5m||Indoor/outdoor||Very scalable||Up to 300m||Effective for precise asset localization in harsh environments|
|Cellular||~30m - 100m||Outdoor||Scalable||Approx 35km||Effective for tracking large assets outdoors|
|GPS||~7m - 10m||Outdoor||Scalable||Satellite dependency||Effective for tracking large assets outdoors|
*Barcode and RFID are not necessarily considered as RTLS solutions but is in the list to be used as references
In addition to looking at how the different RTLS solutions perform, there are other elements to consider with each solution. As with everything else in life, there are pros and cons to each of the different solutions. These differences could be, i.e. price, form factor, ease of installation…
Below is a list of advantages and disadvantages for each solution that will guide you on choosing the right solution for your need
Implementing RTLS in your production line is a sustainable and beneficial way to improve your process efficiency and factory productivity (read more in our success story about car logistics at Volkswagen Wolfsburg). It works with brownfield factories retrofitting production lines to industry 4.0 standards as well as with greenfield projects for cost-efficient investment. However, as RTLS can be achieved with many different technologies, each project is individual due to its economic, construction and production-related context. This said, different technologies show specific advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, implementing RTLS in a production line means first and foremost selecting the right technology.
Read on to learn more about the challenges of digital transformation for manufacturing.
Learn all about real time location systems in manufacturing and indoor logistics