Both OGTech and Feig Electronic support Elsewedy Electric using RFID!
In most of the Elsewedy Electric factories, there are four main areas – raw materials, production/ sub-assembly, quality and finally, the finished product.
In each of these areas, three main processes are applied – receiving, storage or processing (depending on the area in question) and lastly, issuing. Taking the area of raw materials as an example, the raw material is first received, then stored in a warehouse and issued for production. Production then receives the raw material and processes it in the production line to be issued for quality. The quality area receives the raw material, processes it and will then issue it either for the finished product area or back to the production area if any modification is required. In the finished product area, it will also be received for the quality, stored and then issued to the customer.
Andreas Löw, Marketing & Corporate Communcations, FEIG ELECTRONIC & Ahmed Ghallab, Regional Commercial Manager, OGTech & Samuel Kirlos, Project Manager, OG Tech in an interview with RFID & Wireless IoT Global.
Complete Production Captured in Four Zones
El Sewedy Electric is one of the largest industrial companies in Africa and the Middle East. Countless different cables are manufactured at 30 locations alone. The raw material consumption for this is gigantic. Making production more transparent and, in particular, uncovering and subsequently saving unnecessary costs was the main driving force behind the large-scale RFID integration project. In order to develop a solution that could be transferred to all locations, each production area was divided into four defined zones.
26 Factories Receive RFID Solution
The first rollout phase will cover a total of 26 of El Sewedy Electric's more than 30 factories in five countries. The Cable Production Business Unit is responsible for more than 60 percent of the annual sales of the entire El Sewedy Electric Group. The factories produce cables seven days a week in three shifts from an extensive portfolio of hundreds of different products for the industrial, energy, automotive and many other sectors. Prior to RFID integration, the employees of the first two shifts worked in the production of the cables.
The task of the third shift was solely to enter all production-relevant data for each individual cable drum produced. Delayed data provision and only a rough overview, for example of the manufacturing costs of each cable production, was possible. "In retrospect, this situation was a disaster because it led to inefficient and cost-intensive processes. It was simply impossible to look at production at the individual product level," emphasizes Samuel Kirlos.
Project Completion Targeted for 2021
OGTech was selected as the system integrator for the project in 2018. The operational rollout started in May 2019. The overall goal is the integration in all factories at all El Sewedy Electric locations. "The completion of the company-wide rollout is a goal that can be achieved in years, not months," emphasizes Samuel Kirlos.
Together with OGTech, El Sewedy is currently evaluating and analyzing the results of initial integration to develop a transferable model. The experts believe that further development and research is needed to define the best possible template. According to Ahmed Ghallab, the objective is to implement a plug-and-play solution for all factories: "By 2020, the solution is to be rolled out at around ten production sites in the Middle East. In 2021, the factories in North Africa will follow, followed by those on the entire African continent.
Plug-and-Play Solution in Four Steps
The decisive factor for the efficiency of the solution was the division of production into a total of four zones: Raw material storage, production, quality control and finished goods storage. In the design phase, it was decided that incoming and outgoing inspection via RFID would be implemented for each zone. In the first phase of the project, handhelds were used for tag coding and identification. In the current phase, a permanently installed reader infrastructure is being set up.
Zone 1 – Raw Material Storage
El Sewedy Electric cooperates with numerous regional and international suppliers. Currently, the various raw materials are labelled exclusively at pallet level. The first identification is therefore exclusively pallet based. In Zone 1, the production manager decides which quantities of which cables are to be produced. The requirements for raw materials are calculated automatically. If, for example, one kilometer of high-voltage cable is to be produced, the production manager enters this requirement into an ERP console and the demand for raw materials is automatically transmitted to the raw materials warehouse.
The warehouse employees pick the required raw materials and transport them to the assembly area. From there, the raw materials are transported by forklift to the production area. In the transition between raw material storage and production, all materials are recorded by permanently installed readers. The identification of all materials triggers the stock-out from the warehouse.
Zone 2 – Production
In production, the cables to be manufactured pass through a total of nine stations. The biggest challenge is that raw materials and already assembled materials from the previous production steps must be brought together at the various production units. Each production step and thus each production machine therefore has an individual incoming and outgoing materials process, which today can be transparently mapped via RFID capturing.
A very important aspect of this is that, due to the increased transparency, manufacturing companies are now able to precisely determine the quantities of waste materials that are lost due to production waste. This makes it clear what costs arise from raw materials that are not used efficiently. At the end of the nine production stations, the finished cable is wound onto a wooden cable drum. Each drum is marked with an RFID transponder. This guarantees 100 percent that all finished products are clearly identifiable.
Zone 3 – Quality Control
Im Anschluss an die Fertigung folgt die Qualitätskontrolle. Jedes Produkt wird insgesamt vier verschieden Qualitätsprüfungen unterzogen. Dazu gehören visuelle Kontrollen aber auch elektrische Funktionsprüfungen. Eingangs- und Ausgangsprodukte aus dieser dritten Zonen sind somit fertige Produkte.
Zone 4 – Finished Goods Warehouse
The finished goods warehouse is divided into customer groups – public sector companies, national customers or international buyers. As soon as an employee captures a day at one of the stored cable drums, he gets a complete overview of all information about the cable. This includes a list of all raw materials used, the times of production and the complete results of the quality tests.
Hardware and Software
In the current solution configuration, employees use a mix of fixed and mobile readers. The stationary readers, including antennas and cabling, are supplied by Feig Electronic. The handhelds come from Atid. Smartrac labels for nonmetallic objects are used as tags. All metallic objects are marked with Metalcraft transponders. The Smartrac labels are printed and coded by Zebra printers.
"OGTech's share included in particular the consulting before the start of the project, the pilot phase and proof of concepts as well as the complete hardware and software integration. The complete support is also part of our contract," reports Ahmed Ghallab. For all integration, 40 to 50 handhelds will be used on average per factory. Eight detection points per factory will be equipped with stationary RFID reading infrastructure. One detection point comprises a long-range UHF RFID reader and up to four connected antennas, depending on the process requirements.
Physically, it was primarily the all-metal environment that has a hereditary influence reading ranges and detection accuracy. "A large part of OGTech's development effort went into the optimization of processes in order to cover all cases and to ensure compatibility with the Oracle ERP manufacturing module.
The key to an RFID system is the ability to uniquely identify each item and to be able to track it throughout different processes.", says Samuel Kirlos. Nevertheless, active technology would not have been suitable. Firstly, because the hardware is much more expensive, and secondly because regulations in Egypt do not allow the use of active technology in all areas as required by El Sewedy. Another challenge is that a large proportion of the employees have often been with the company for 20 to 25 years.
"They do not have a fundamentally natural understanding of new technologies. A large number of work processes have been organized manually for decades. Therefore, change management is required. The planning and implementation of training and education took up a large part of the project. Basic information, such as how to start the individual applications, had to be prepared for all employees," says Samuel Kirlos, giving an insight into the complex challenges.
Elsewedy Electric is a leading integrated energy solutions provider in the Middle East and Africa with over 30 production facilities across 15 countries. The Wires and Cables sector represents the largest sector of the group with 81.5 % of the total revenue.