SICK Sensors

Sensors for the Fusion of Logistics and Production Processes

Accurate data generation – regardless of the source. A hybrid platform prevents disruptions in the chain of information.

Accurate data generation – regardless of the source!

A hybrid platform prevents disruptions in the chain of information.

With a comprehensive sensor portfolio, the globally active company Sick aims to implement industrial 4.0 applications.

According to Oliver Huther, Manager Business Development RFID at Sick, logistics and production processes in the automotive industry, in particular, are outstanding areas in which Sick sensors are being utilized.

In an interview with RFID & Wireless IoT Global, Oliver Huther reported on how UHF-based applications have increasingly established themselves in production and logistics in recent years since UHF technology was first used in automotive manufacturing. He is primarily interested in the benefits generated on the basis of integrated solutions.

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Mr. Huther, RFID is no longer an unknown technology in logistics and production processes. At the same time, the degree of coverage is currently not high enough to speak of RFID as the basis of any digitalized process. What are the reasons for this?

A complete, transparent integration of logistic and production processes has not been achieved across the board. There are still media discontinuities. UHF RFID as a well-developed technology clearly has the potential to overcome these media discontinuities. The resulting consistency is not a nice-to-have, but the decisive step in substantially reducing errors that are still caused by media gaps.

Processes become leaner, faster, and more accurate. The financial saving potential is enormous, especially when the entire supply chain, including intralogistics, is considered. And that's exactly what's happening now. Automotive companies are increasingly concerned with the consistent use of RFID.

Today, UHF RFID is no longer rocket science. This was entirely different about eight years ago, when Sick supplied UHF technology to the first automobile production from the body-in-white. To this day, more than 20 million vehicles with UHF technology have already been manufactured by Sick. But even these figures mark only the beginning of the potential utilization that is possible in production and logistics.

So the advantages and added values are there – how can companies profit from this now? Does RFID technology have to be integrated in every step during the process?

The technology can offer this, but no company is constrained to implement UHF RFID in every process immediately. There is also an alternative. The 4Dpro platform developed by Sick allows different identification technologies to be combined and easily exchanged. The platform also offers an ideal starting point for technology migrations.

If a sensor, for example a barcode reader, is exchanged for an RFID reader, no software adaptation is required for the technology modification. Therefore, there are no additional costs for software. Hybrid applications from different identification technologies can also be implemented. The user is given full flexibility and does not have to commit to an Auto-ID technology.

How does Sick succeed in meeting the continuously changing requirements in the automotive industry, for example with suitable technological solutions?

Sick has been a technology partner of the automotive industry since the 1950s. This in-depth understanding of processes as well as process changes have a direct influence on product development at Sick. Being a technology supplier to Germany's largest economic sector for more than 70 years shows that we have continuously developed alongside the sector.

This comprehensive reservoir of experience also enables us to accompany and support current developments in the automotive industry – not only in Germany but also globally - as effectively as possible with sensor solutions. The integration of RFID technology with suppliers will be one of the decisive components in achieving the highest possible degree of transparency in distributed automotive production.

This does not only apply to the labeling of components or module components and thus, the digitalized supply chain is made possible. The identification of a large number of small load carriers, with which parts are delivered directly to production, will also have a strong influence on process efficiency.

In this environment, RFID is clearly an enabler. Together with a number of suppliers, Sick has already initiated projects that have been implemented by the companies par excellence. The added value for all stakeholders in the value chain – and beyond – is undeniable.

Does the increasing technology rollout therefore automatically ensure a fusion of logistics and production processes?

IT and automation systems are interested in an accurate, uninterrupted stream of data. The type of Auto-ID technology that ultimately provides the data is irrelevant for these systems. Sick therefore also offers solutions with hybrid systems to provide the right solution for every requirement.

A striking example of this are systems for recording flight baggage. RFID and barcode reading systems are used in conjunction, as it is not possible to predict whether baggage will be labeled with RFID or barcode labels. Such a hybrid solution can be applied to countless processes in logistics and production.

Today, Sick offers more than 40,000 products in its portfolio, including products from the various fields of identification technologies. Over the past ten years, Sick has invested significantly in the development of its RFID portfolio and has presented numerous technological innovations.

However, the approach always remains a holistic one: the selection of suitable identification technology always follows the requirements of the application.

Does every sensor have to be "smart"?

The concepts and vision of IoT and Industry 4.0 are largely based on the use of smart technology, which is capable of processing, analyzing, and sometimes making decisions directly at the scene of action. But does every installed sensor have to be "smart"?

"Sick's RFID readers are able to process captured data immediately via integrated processors and algorithms. To do the same for a simple sensor would make neither technical nor economic sense. The 'Sensor Integration Machine (SIM)' product line as part of the eco-system 'Sick AppSpace' enables users to integrate any sensor in a Cloud and thus become part of a digitized solution," emphasizes Oliver Huther.

A.I. and sensors

The aim is to use A.I. to enable the sensor to solve its task even better in the respective application. Standard sensors already function well, but when a new task is added, the sensors have their limitations. With A.I., on the other hand, a sensor can learn from experience and anticipate: What is it that I see there?

The result is a better sensor that can also recognize things it has never seen before. Of course, the sensor needs a hardware base with corresponding computing power and a suitable software app for the task. We have created the Sick App- Space eco-system for this purpose. In the past, a sensor delivered data in the form of bits and bytes; today, intelligent sensors pass on information.

RFID & Wireless IoT Global: Magazine for RFID, wireless IoT, and process optimization

This article was produced and released by the editorial team of RFID & Wireless IoT Global. The e-magazine is published 6 times a year with 52 pages filled to the brim with information and know-how. We report in detail and up-to-date on the latest technological developments and use cases in the fields of industrial production, logistics, retail, security, medical industry, smart city & consumer IoT, hardware, research and digitisation.

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Oliver Huther
Oliver Huther
Business Development Manager RFID
Düsseldorf, Germany
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