Press Releases

RFID Project Moves Inventory Control to Wireless Technology

September 2004

BOISE, IDAHO – POWER Engineers, Inc., a leading provider of engineering services, today announced successful completion of two Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) pilot projects for a Fortune 100 high technology client. The pilots are a key component of the client’s compliance with Wal-Mart’s™ RFID mandate that its top suppliers begin shipping RFID-enabled goods to its Texas distribution center.

Bret Moffett, POWER’s Project Manager, stated, “Given the competitive business our client is in and the advantages RFID can impart, we aren’t able to discuss all the details, but we can say we have clearly established ourselves as a company with a hands-on RFID track record.”

RFID tags are barcode labels with small electronic chips integrated into them. These labels can be placed on cases, pallets and containers, and can be easily read as an individual container or group by a wireless reader. This technology facilitates and improves movement and handling, as well as accuracy and efficiency. As a result, RFID technology will eventually replace simple bar codes, helping companies optimize and automate their supply chains.

POWER’s client was already using Piñata – the open source MES software suite – to manufacture advanced commercial and consumer electronic products, so adding RFID capability was central to upgrading the labeling mechanism of these electronic goods. POWER developed the necessary software to interface with the client’s chosen RFID hardware, which involved writing a custom software library for reading RFID labels and configuring a commercial off-the-shelf RFID label printing package.

Additionally, POWER programmed Piñata to generate EPCs, or electronic product codes. This process, known as EPC commissioning, is central to the RFID process since it is the EPC stored in the RFID chip that uniquely identifies the tagged item. POWER also created a new Piñata module, known as Pallet Audit, to take advantage of the RFID tags. The purpose of Pallet Audit was to assist operators with verifying the contents of pallets before they are stored or shipped. Pallet Audit does this by automatically reading all the RFID tags at the palletizing station and verifying that the correct cases have been placed on a given pallet.

“It is exciting to have made these changes in an open source software package like Piñata because I’m not aware of any commercial off-the-shelf MES’s that have comparable capability,” Moffett said. “Being able to adapt quickly and customize software is one of the key reasons our client uses Piñata,” he added.

POWER Engineers is a consulting engineering firm specializing in energy, facilities, and communications. Founded in 1976, POWER is an employee-owned company with offices throughout the United States and abroad.