The emergence of smart manufacturing facilities – what some term the fourth industrial revolution, or Industrial 4.0 – is creating a new level of automation in the factory, with intelligent object networking, independent process manufacturing, and frequent use of interactions between the real and virtual worlds. These trends are changing how manufacturers manage their production networks, and making it possible to operate in what is almost real time. Near Field Communication has an important role to play in this new environment, because NFC helps reduce the time it takes to process items, can enable customization at any point in the production process, and simplifies logistics.
NFC creates smart, autonomous objects that can interact with machinery and contribute to the decision-making process. In a typical setup, NFC ICs are integrated into the manufacturing equipment, and products running along the assembly lines are outfitted with NFC tags, either as part of their onboard circuitry or as a sticker placed somewhere on the item. The tag can instruct each piece of equipment which steps to use at a given point, telling the machine, in essence, “this is what you should do with me.”
NFC tags give the product a smart memory, and can contain all the relevant information as the product passes through the factory, the warehouse, and beyond, throughout the supply chain. A single tag can be configured for different purposes at different points in the process, so the instructions can change as needed. Using NFC tags enables late customization, with manufacturers setting the language for the user interface or configuring other settings before shipping the product to a particular region. NFC tags can also be used to verify the authenticity of individual components or tools, to ensure that robots use the right item for a given task.
Adding NFC functionality to just about any kind of tool, machine, or motor – whether it’s in a state-of-the-art facility or in a more traditional manufacturing environment – makes it possible to add a display for enhanced interactions. The display on a worker’s tablet or on a piece of equipment can be used as the man- machine interface, so it’s easier to verify or change parameters, check calibrations, refine settings, or simply monitor activity.
NFC connectivity also enables tap-and-go cloud access from the manufacturing floor, for quick referrals to operating manuals, automatic firmware downloads, and other kinds of assistance.
To see how NFC can be integrated into manufacturing machinery and products, check out our short article on NFC-enabled manufacturing.
For an online overview of what NFC is and what it can do for you, visit our NFC Everywhere website. For the next level in technical detail, including a product selector guide, download the NFC Everywhere brochure.