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Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Logistics and Information Systems

Ubisense Case study

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The Fraunhofer ALI (Centre for Applied Logistics and Information Systems Planning) is one of Fraunhofer Society's research institutes that specialise in production logistics and the application of IT to provide new solutions for logistics processes in manufacturing organizations.

Fraunhofer ALI used Ubisense technology to develop the concept of an intelligent fork-lift to be used by Ortrander iron foundry in Germany. Since the foundry experienced a three-fold growth in production in the last five years, it required a less manual and improved logistics system, to keep up with demand. The company launched an enterprise initiative to update its material flow, storage and information processes so they’d be more transparent and efficient, and better equipped to handle its higher-production volumes. The current implemented system uses Ubisense track 30 forklifts and 10,000 metal containers with their contents.

SolutionThe solution currently in operation features forklifts outfitted with two Ubisense tags on its roof, on the outside of the drover cabin, as well as two more on the forks themselves (see fig. 1). The tags generate signals between 6 and 8.5 GHz up to 20 times per second. The forklift can be located with an error range of +/-15 centimeters. Ubisense sensors are mounted onto fixed infrastructure in the Ortrander production facility where iron parts are cleaned after they are poured into casts. The facility is one of three where the Ubisense tracking system is used. The system captures the signals from the forklift tags, then analyses the forklift’s location and direction of motion within the warehouse.

The system is also being used to track containers on pallets, which is used to move around cast parts. A passive RFID tag is affixed to the long side of each containers base. Once the cast parts are stowed on the containers, it is moved to different stations and stored temporarily.

Forklifts carry active RFID tags as well as UHF RFID readers and antennas to identify the UHF RFID tags on the mesh cages. When a driver picks up a container, the forklift’s interrogator will identify that container’s UHF RFID tag, and the system will note which container was moved, and at what time. This information will be combined with the Ubisense location information to let managers know the location which the container was moved.

A future system will calculate the load’s weight by subtracting the weight of the empty container from that of the loaded container. This data will then be used to help determine the container’s contents, since batches can comprise a variety of different castings.

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