Monday | 05 November, 2012 | 10:13 am

Tagged visibility

By Nick Wright

Steel basket manufacturer adds RFID to custom line for tight inventory control

November 2012 - You’re the owner of a massive component manufacturer. It’s Friday, and you’ve left for the day. As you sit down to dinner, your phone vibrates in your pocket. It’s your WIP software alerting you via text that it’s detected a batch of parts that are out of spec. You excuse yourself, call your nightshift manager and he pinpoints exactly which batch and production run went wrong. He pulls them from the workflow and resolves the problem so you get the right parts out on time.

With the help of the wireless radio-frequency identification solution integrated in the plant, the shift manager effectively allocated the necessary resources to keep the process moving.

Better known as RFID, radio frequency tracking has been around in some form for decades. The simple wireless transmission of raw data tracks anything from the local grocery store’s inventory to how much drivers owe the toll road. But RFID signals are only as effective as the hardware that transmit and read them.


With the intent of taking RFID to the next level for fabricators and manufacturers, two Baltimore companies have joined forces to seamlessly integrate RFID tags with steel baskets not only for tight inventory control but also for production bottlenecks.

In September, Marlin Steel Wire Products, a manufacturer of custom steel and stainless steel wire and mesh baskets, and Barcoding Inc., an integrator of RFID technologies, launched custom steel baskets with built-in RFID tags for inventory management. The combination of the baskets and RFID allows companies to track high-value components like gears for OEMs from a computer or smartphone.

Jay Steinmetz, president and CEO of Barcoding, explains customers in the aerospace or automotive industries, need to know where a container of metal components is in the process in case of a manufacturing error. Singling out the defective part quickly ensures a problem is fixed before it leaves the warehouse.

“It’s important for a company to know that an item it’s milling is in container X,” he says. “If it gets deployed into product ABC that ends up having problems down the line and it turns out to be the milling of product X, they can track exactly which production run it was and find exactly which container that came out of.”

Marlin Steel tailors its steel baskets in a range of sizes, whether it’s a hand-held 3-inch by 3-inch by 1-inch or a 4-foot by 4-foot by 5-foot basket, to accommodate one of two tags depending on the customer’s need. A polymide nylon EPC Gen 2 tag can read up to 24 feet away and a ceramic tag can read up to 3 feet. 

Next level of lean

Steinmetz says the RFID-tagged baskets are elevating lean manufacturing principles to another level. By taking a page from the Kanban system, which relies on signals to indicate restocking of material to process, manufacturers will reduce excess inventory on hand. They can be more nimble with existing material. If there are 87 widgets by the mill, 63 at the lathe and 57 at another work cell, a company can have accurate visibilitofto where parts are queued.

“It’s going to be tied in with Marlin’s baskets and Barcoding’s software to determine exactly where every single bit of inventory is in their plant,” says Steinmetz, adding that the RFID-equipped material handling eliminates possible human error with an RFID reader. The raw RFID data can be analyzed with Barcoding’s software, or a company’s existing inventory management system.

By the fourth quarter this year, Marlin Steel president Drew Greenblatt anticipates having the system operating with clients. The trick, he says, will be promoting those companies that may want to keep the system mum from competitors.

“This will be major strategic benefit for these entities,” says Greenblatt. “It’ll enable them to reduce their costs, increase gross profits and they won’t want their competitors to know about it and follow along.”

For metals industry applications, fabricators and manufacturers stand to benefit. Marlin Steel is finalizing the RFID system for its own in-house manufacturing, as well as demonstrating it to prospective clients.

“We’re right now talking with several fabricators,” Greenblatt says. “Those will be companies who are assembling high dollar value items. They’ll be the ones who will get the fastest and quickest payback.” MM


Current Issue


October 2014

Gearing up for 2015
Tackling foreign policies, regulations, trade balances and capital plans, here are forecasts for virtually everything.





Modern Metals on Twitter

White Papers

More White Papers >

Industry Partners

Alloy Bar Products

Custom Rubber Products

Metals Distribution

Service Centers

Sierra Alloys Royal Rubber Co. ThyssenKruppnMaterials NA Heidtman Steel Products


Cutting Software

Perforated & Expanded Metal

North American Steel Alliance
Channel Alloys SigmaTEK Systems McNichols Co. Reliance Steel & Aluminum Company


Cutting Systems

Plasma Technology

Thickness Gauges

Gerdau Messer Cutting Systems, Inc. ESAB Welding & Cutting Products Compusource Corporation




Enmark Systems, Inc.
Steelmax Hougen Manufacturing, Inc. Allor Manufacturing Inc.

Stainless Steel

CNC Cutting (Plasma, Waterjet, Laser, Router)

Financial Services

Artco Group Stainless Sales Corp.
Multicam Inc. BMO Harris Bank Churchill Steel Plate Ltd Straub Metal International

Coated Coil

GE Capital Finance Ranger Steel

Stainless, Nickel, Aluminum, Pipe, Tube & Bar

American Nickeloid Metals

Investment Banking

Precision Grinding

Prudential Stainless & Alloys, L.P.
Centria Coating Services Brown Gibbons Lang & Company Joco Precision Grinding


Metal Coaters

Laser Technology

Profiling Software


Coil Processing

AltaMAR, Inc. FastCam Pty Ltd. Central Steel Service, Inc.
Bradbury Group Amada America, Inc.

Rolled and Extruded Aluminum Products

Parker Steel Co.
Braner USA LVD Strippit Aleris Rolled Products SSAB
Burghardt + Schmidt GmbH Mitsubishi Laser-MC Machinery Systems, Inc.

Sawing Technology

Summit Steel Corporation
Butech Bliss

Machining Centers

Behringer Saws, Inc.

Steel Fabrication

Formtek-Maine Handtmann CNC Cosen International, Inc. Voortman Corporation
Herr-Voss Stamco

Material Handling

Cut Technologies Metal


IMS Systems, Inc. Canrack Metal Center Systems DoALL Sawing Products TSI Titanium
Leveltek Samuel Strapping Systems HE&M Saw


Machine Concepts Steel Storage Systems Inc. Kasto Carlson Tool & Manufacturing Corp.
Red Bud Industries The Caldwell Group, Inc. Metlsaw Systems

Tube & Pipe


Metal Alloy Analysis & Verification Independence Tube Corp.

Copper & Brass

Thermo Scientific Niton Analyzers Scotchman Industries, Inc. National Tube Supply Company
Christy Metals Inc.

Metal Finishing & Deburring

Wikus Saw Technology Specialty Pipe & Tube
Farmer's Copper Supermax Tools


Turnkey Finishing System












TECHNI Waterjet


twitter facebook linkedin rss