Symbol Puts Wi-Fi on Assembly Lines

By atnewyork Staff

February 24, 2003

The wireless networking company pitches a new product to help managers track inventory by using real-time location tags.

Mobile networking company Symbol Technologies , riding the Wi-Fi popularity wave, has rolled out new real-time location-tracking products based on the 802.11b (Wi-Fi) networking protocol.

The new system is aimed at helping manufacturers improve their tracking abilities on parts and assembly, especially as assembly plants mull deploying wireless networking systems to help them extend their infrastructure.

Called Spectrum24 RTL, it offers 802.11b wireless networking and differential time of arrival (DTOA) technology in order to keep track of assets and data with a 10-foot range, the company said.

The system uses RTL "tags," small handheld devices that can be attached to assembly lines, or to assembly parts as they roll down a manufacturing line. The devices can be used to trigger a call to plant management, or just help the assembly line keep track of the manufacturing process after assembly, such as storage or shipping destinations.

The Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol is positioning the product to plants that are looking to upgrade or even replace their assembly-line communications systems, such as hard-wired KANBAN call buttons, which act as "buzzers" from workers to plant management that more parts or material are needed at a workstation.

Instead, the RTL pitch is that setting up "wireless" call buttons allows plants to automate calls for more assembly parts without triggering an assembly-line shutdown, which can be the case with legacy, hard-wired call buttons. Meanwhile, as assembly lines are re-worked to prepare for new products, Symbol is moving to capture a chance to pitch the plant on going wireless as a way to save on the cost of re-routing hard wires for call buttons by adopting wireless "tags," that can serve as portable call buttons.

Symbol officials said they are targeting other sectors as well.

"With this system a supermarket wholesale distributor, for example, can save hundreds of thousands of dollars associated with product spoilage and inefficient asset use at distribution facilities," said Ray Martino, general manager, network products, Symbol Technologies.



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