Secure and Reliable Operations through Digital Logistics

Research and Development in Material Handling Engineering and Systems

RFID Tracking of Equipment Delivers Real-Time Process Data

The Fraunhofer IFF developed and implemented an RFID system that automatically tracks equipment for ALUNorf GmbH, the world's largest aluminum rolling and casting plant. This is a fundamental aspect of internal logistics and maintenance.

The system installed at ALUNorf consists of several RFID reader stations, a central positioning server and the ERP system already present in the plant. All of the data acquired at individual stations is transmitted to the central positioning server, processed, filtered, edited and forwarded to the ERP system.

Transparency in Equipment Tracking: RFID Tracking of Permanent Molds

The permanent molds at ALUNorf GmbH are shuttled back and forth between the permanent mold storage facility, the shop and the casting plant with the individual casting stations. Permanent molds can be stored temporarily on a shelf between stations. In order to track permanent molds, their transition from one station to another is tracked. The maximum read range is three meters. Moreover, permanent molds at ALUNorf GmbH are regularly subjected to:

  • temperatures of up to 60 °C
  • dirt, water and oil, and
  • diverse impacts when inserted and removed.

UHF RFID systems specially adjusted to the environment meet the hardware requirements. The transponder installed on the permanent molds have a water and oil-tight housing and a metal frame that protects them from mechanical stresses.

There are plans to upgrade the RF internal logistics system implemented with the tool “permanent mold” to include equipment such as tractors and coils as well as products such as aluminum bars. With every upgrade of the system, more and more of the plant’s current condition can be mapped. This delivers a basis for forecasts of potential bottlenecks of permanent molds or of tractor availability or even for warnings triggered by a variety of parameters.