Toro Aluminium

Major Canadian Component Manufacturer Relies on RFID & RTLS

RFID Canada Installs RFID Printers in CNC Machines

TORO Aluminium and UHF RFID

Toro Aluminium has been using RFID transponders, UHF ceiling antennas and RFID handhelds to label and identify products in the production of prefabricated aluminum components since 2023. Production, interim storage, outgoing goods and the after-sales area are all automated.

Windows and doors can be clearly identified and localized without contact. As a result, automation, data transparency and the degree of digitalization are increased.

Success Story powered by: the Think WIOT Group, RFID Canada, FEIG and Times-7.

Unitized Window Walls

Unitized Window Walls.

Toro Aluminium designs, develops and manufactures windows and doors ranging from aluminum profiles to panoramic windows for high-rise buildings.

Toro Aluminium: Specialist for Aluminum

Toro Aluminum was founded in 1979 in Toronto, Ontario. The Canadian company has been producing aluminum products for more than 40 years. The production areas of the Toro Aluminum Group include facades, windows, doors, gates and balustrades.

The company produces prefabricated aluminum building elements for high-rise buildings, office buildings, universities, sports facilities, cultural institutions, government buildings and hotels. Toro Aluminum's markets cover Canada, the USA and Mexico. Toro Aluminum's window and door production facility, based in Toronto, has a production area of 1 million square meters. 500 employees manufacture over 3,000 aluminum windows every week. Work is carried out in a 3-shift system.

To date, a good 22 percent of the 13 million window units produced each year are made of metal, primarily in public and office buildings. Aluminum has long since replaced steel and now accounts for over 90 percent. Aluminum window frames have been in use in North America for almost 100 years. They are considered a typical feature of the mid-century style characterized by clear lines. To this day, aluminum windows have retained their significance for modern architecture.

The window frames have no visible weld seams and can be enameled or coated with paint. The high mass of aluminum windows ensures good sound insulation. However, they also have high thermal conductivity and are therefore offered with a thermal barrier in northern regions.

Modern aluminum frames are constructed in multiple layers and thus have a thermal break and built-in insulation material. This construction method results in a similar thermal conductivity to timber and PVC frames. As the window frame does not rust and is also very weather-resistant, the service life of an aluminum component is between 40 and 60 years.

500 employees produce over 3000 components every week. Production takes place in three shifts. The raw material for production is supplied in the form of aluminum profiles. CNC machines cut the vertical and horizontal aluminum profiles to size. Assembly then begins on ten assembly lines. The company has been using RFID transponders and UHF ceiling antennas as well as RFID handhelds in the production of aluminum windows since 2023.

The technology enables the labeling, identification and localization of windows and doors. The control of the CNC machines and the track & trace solution are a modern step towards the digitalization of production, the supply chain and after-sales processes.

The research and development department focuses on continuous product development. Modern designs, technical advancements in materials and insulation, as well as test scenarios are all part of daily business in the development department. Toro Aluminum uses a test chamber for quality control, in which air, water and structural tests are carried out.

The fleet includes six tractor units, several flatbed trucks and box trucks. Toro Aluminum currently has 40 trailers of various sizes. The delivery regions are primarily Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. In addition, Toro Aluminum also serves projects in Portland, Los Angeles, Halifax, Phoenix and even in Mexico.

RTLS in the Production Process

Aluminum profiles are cut to the exact lengths required by CNC machines. Each window is manufactured for a specific position, function and floor of a building. The vertical and horizontal dimensions must be a 100 percent exact fit. To automate this production step, RFID Canada has integrated RFID printers from Sato into the CNC machines.

The printers are connected to the ERP system. They generate a coded RFID label that contains the exact production dimensions and key placement data for the window to be produced. The component now has a unique ID. This ID is stored in the ERP system for the specific order. The ID provides the CNC machine with the dimensions for cutting.

The ceiling antennas from Feig Electronic are precisely configured for the production processes on the assembly line. They cover a precise reading zone. Only the components that are manufactured on the assembly line can be detected. Each of the ten assembly lines begins at the CNC machine, the starting point of the assembly line.

Once the profiles have been cut to size, they are further processed on the assembly line. In the first integration phase RFID Canada has equipped the start and end of production on all ten assembly lines with two ceiling antennas each.

The ID of the component is detected via the RFID ceiling antenna and assembly commences. The RFID label is located on the side of the components. Ceiling antennas are installed both at the beginning and at the end of the two assembly lines. These two checkpoints ensure that the start of production and the end of production are documented and also recorded in terms of time.

Further control checkpoints are planned for the assembly lines in the future to further increase the transparency of production. In the final expansion stage, all ten assembly lines are to be equipped with RFID technology.

Before the window reaches final assembly and the last inspection point, it must in some cases be temporarily stored in the waiting or quarantine warehouse. Components that cannot be finished because a component is missing or an additional inspection is required are "parked" in this area. Real-time localization of all windows takes place in this temporary storage area via ceiling antennas.

The ERP system therefore knows exactly which components are located where and for how long. This area is essential for Toro Aluminum. An order is often 99 percent complete. The missing components are in interim storage and can be clearly localized in real time based on the ID. This completes the production process for the entire order.

Assembly Lines with Ceiling Antennas
Storage area via ceiling antennas

Real-time localization of all windows takes place in this temporary storage area via ceiling antennas.

RFID & RTLS in the Supply Chain

The gates at the outgoing goods area

The gates at the outgoing goods area are also equipped with RFID antennas.

The gates at the outgoing goods area are also equipped with RFID antennas. An indicator light is attached to each antenna. All windows that reach the outgoing goods area are detected. Based on the ID, the ERP system creates the delivery bill for the order.

If a window that is not part of the delivery reaches the outgoing goods area, the indicator lamp lights up red. RFID Canada installed a special type of antenna from Times-7 in the gates of the outgoing goods area, as the beam angle has to be very narrow. This ensures that only components that belong to the order are loaded.

Each component is assigned to a specific truck

Each component is assigned to a specific truck. The ID numbers of the components are made available to the customer via the RFID To Go software.

Furthermore, it is essential that all components belonging to an order are also loaded completely. If even just one window is missing on the construction site, which can be thousands of kilometers away, this results in high downtime costs.

The RFID To Go software is installed on the customer's handheld. The handheld has an interface to Toro Aluminum's ERP system. The handheld can therefore be used to check the completeness of the delivery on the truck.

Incoming Goods on the Construction Site

If even just one window is missing on the construction site, which can be thousands of kilometers away, this results in high downtime costs.

If the delivery is correct, Toro Aluminum's ERP system is informed and the order is marked as successfully delivered. The site manager can also use the RFID handheld to locate and count a specific component or group of components.

Once the components have been installed, the RFID label is concealed between the window and the wall. Toro Aluminum must comply with maintenance contracts and warranties for five years after installation. As the ID of the component can be read out, the exact dimensions for a replacement order can be quickly determined even years after installation.

Automated Production in Four Months

Khaled Elshimy, CEO of RFID Canada

Khaled Elshimy, CEO of RFID Canada, based in Toronto.

The entire production process on the ten assembly lines is transparent and can therefore be controlled. The localization of the components is particularly beneficial in the interim storage area and during goods delivery.

At these control checkpoints, Toro Aluminum generates time savings, safety and control. The advantages of traceability and automatic identification are combined at the loading gates. In the after-sales area, the ordering of spare parts is optimized.

The biggest challenge was clearly the metallic environment and the reflections. We had to make sure that the hardware was configured correctly to work in this environment. As the manufacturing process is not completely machine-based, but involves people carrying, turning and also machining the components, the process is not uniform.

Yes, that's what we did. The pilot project ran for six months. We only installed a single checkpoint with RFID ceiling antennas on one assembly line and at one gate at the outgoing goods area. The integration of the RFID printers with the CNC machines was not part of the proof of concept. We therefore supplied the pre-coded labels.

The employees applied these RFID labels manually. The purpose of this project was to compare the results of the RFID system with the results of the current barcode system.

The results were clear and demonstrated the potential of RFID technology. The automated and contactless processes are superior to the manual barcode process. The decision to start the installation was therefore made very quickly.

We started the implementation in March 2023. Around four months were planned to complete the entire hardware installation and the integration of the RFID printers with the CNC machines. The installation had to be carried out in phases in order to reduce downtime on the production lines as much as possible. We therefore installed in stages. The aim was to equip two assembly lines with RFID technology by July 2023. This has been achieved.

All production and logistics processes, all readers and antennas and all generated data are connected to Toro Aluminum's ERP system in real time via RFID to Go and RFID Hub. These two software solutions take care of the system status of the entire hardware and infrastructure as well as the integration, connectivity and transfer of data to the application database.

We have a total of 17 readers, 35 antennas, 10 handheld readers and 9 printers. RFID Canada is manufacturing customized RFID labels for this application. The fixed readers in the ceiling area are all from Feig Electronic. We have mounted antennas from Times-7 and Feig Electronic on the gates. The printers are from Sato, the handheld readers from Honeywell and the tags from Avery Dennison.

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