Semiconductor manufacturer makes RFID look easy

Workers at Freescale Semiconductor rely on active RFID tags (inset) to locate components during the production process. The tags are part of a network that matches RFID with standard wireless networking technology.

By Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor September 4, 2007

If all RFID implementations were as easy to pull off as the one at Freescale Semiconductor , there probably would be fewer studies documenting the slow RFID adoption rate .

Freescale, an Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless markets, recently set up an RFID network that makes it easier for workers to find the exact components they need at any point in the manufacturing process.

Glaston Ford, a Freescale spokesman, says this system was easy, and relatively inexpensive, to install because it piggybacked on an existing Wi-Fi network that Freescale already had installed to allow engineers to move around the production fab and still have network access via laptop computers.

The existing Wi-Fi network is a standard 802.11 set-up employing Cisco wireless networking equipment. The RFID component of the network was installed by a company called AeroScout .
Josh Slobin, marketing director, says AeroScout specializes in developing real-time location tracking systems matching active technology

Earlier this year, AeroScout also launched a partnership with Cisco to develop manufacturing-centric solutions that combine Wi-Fi and RFID technologies.

“We have seen substantial increases in productivity since installing this system,” Ford says. “Operators are spending less time finding the right lots and loading them into the right tools. When you multiply the time saved by hundreds of workers and thousands of parts moving around the factory over the course of a week, a month, or a year, that has a major impact on the bottom line.”

The Freescale RFID network employs AeroScout active RFID tags affixed toiners on a series of racks located within the fab.

Workers at Freescale Semiconductor rely on active RFID tags (inset) to locate

“Before we installed the AeroScout system, workers would get instructions with a lot ID number and start looking where they thought the lot should be,” Ford says. “They would be looking at a bunch of boxes that fundamentally all look the same, and often they had to go to numerous racks before finding the correct one.”

Now, when workers get a lot number, they enter it into AeroScout’s MobileView application, which is linked to Freescale’s manufacturing execution system. A map of the fab pops up on the computer screen, with a blinking light indicating the location of the lot the worker is seeking.

The worker then right-clicks the blinking light, which sends a signal to an AeroScout device known as an Exciter . The Exciter relays

“This process is much easier and less error prone,” Ford says, adding that Freescale might not have changed its lot-searching process if it had not discovered the AeroScout solution.

“None of the alternative methods of doing this could leverage our existing infrastructure,” Ford says.
That’s something other RFID vendors might want to consider.