Intel on RFID: Lessons learned, benefits earned


Deploying radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies within Intel Corp. over the past four years has helped increase manufacturing and distribution efficiencies. RFID technologies of four years ago, compared to now, are like night and day, said two Intel engineers. They shared lessons learned and benefits earned at the 5th Annual RFID World conference and exhibition here, March 26-28, 2007.

RFID is ready for prime time and advantages continue to emerge, the Intel engineers said, creating business value from greater visibility, inventory reduction, process control, asset management, R&D, professional services with higher speed information and product flow. In one application, process improvements at an Intel warehouse resulted in 18-22% efficiency gains; of that, 5-7% was attributed to RFID use.

Technologies have improve significantly in four years, as has Intel's knowledge about implementation, suggested Debbie Mertzon, program manager, new business engagement (M&A/RFID), and Scott A. Thomas, customer fulfillment, planning and logistics group. Thomas noted that Intel benefits from its internal use of RFID, has just begun offering silicon specific for RFID readers, and expects that increasing RFID data collection and information processing will enhance sale of other microprocessor products. Real-time location services (RTLS), including RFID, are just at the beginning of their market curve, Mertzon said.

Internally, there's a lot to gain. The semiconductor manufacturer, founded in 1968, now tilts almost any scale. It has 93,000 employees, $35.4 billion revenue, 60,000 wafer starts a week, more than 100,000 products, 70,000 dealers, and more than 35,000 SKUs. Finding where to start was itself a challenge.

Current Intel RFID applications are within factories, IT, warehousing and storage, and throughout the supply chain. "It's tough to capture overall return on investment, but we're doing our best to measure that. There's tons of potential value and incidental benefits with each RFID implementation," Mertzon said. Warehouse cycle time, for example, went from 24 personnel hours to 17 minutes.

One big benefit area is asset management. Dies are transported on carts and, with more than $4 billion in fab tools, getting the right cart to the right station at the right time is important. Intel sees huge RFID potential for greater traceability. In manufacturing, what doesn't happen is hard to measure, but if better information flow results in avoiding one loss, it could save tens of millions of dollars.

Better local tracking also means less inventory is needed to replenish the supply chain. Chemical suppliers, for example, are using tags to inventory their products, which allows Intel to better manage related education and documentation.

For more on advances in RFID technology and system implementation advice from Mertzon and Thomas, see " RFID lessons: Improved technology leads to easier implementations ."

" What's Your RFID Spin? " from Control Engineering talks about the latest in RFID for manufacturing.

Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief,
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