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UHF RFID Identifies Switch Gear

SGC – SwitchGear Company, the Belgian medium-voltage switchgear specialist identifies its RMU ring main unit medium voltage cubicles using 34 UHF read/write heads from Turck

The greater the number of variants that a product has, the more difficult it is to manage the resulting manufacturing complexity. This was also the case for switchgear assembly manufacturers SwitchGear Company. The company therefore uses a UHF RFID system from Turck to track the production of its DR-6 series with its many variants. This increases production efficiency and flexibility whilst guaranteeing 100% quality assurance. For example, the correct data is loaded automatically in test installations, which considerably reduces any possible manual errors. Turck Multiprox also programmed the control of the RFID system on BL20 gateways using Codesys.

  • During the entire production process, the tag is kept on the bottom of the medium voltage cubicle/RMU

  • A read/write head also records products when they are checked in and out of the internal warehouse

  • The test installation takes the appropriate test parameters for the actual product from the ERP system

  • BL20 gateway interfaces to the read/write heads, controls the system and communicates with the ERP system

  • Sophie Vandoorne and Patrick De Clercq

Up to a few years ago, SwitchGear Company (SGC), the Belgian manufacturer of medium voltage cubicles, primarily focused on the DF-2 modular medium voltage cubicles. An arc flame may possibly occur if there is a problem such as a leakage current. This could lead to an explosion in one of the modules, in which case only this one module has to be replaced. As the lifespan of a switchgear assembly is normally more than 30 years, this solution is often the most economical.

However, the market demanded more affordable versions which make no compromise in terms of safety. SGC consequently developed its DR-/DT-6 product series. These compact units combine the different functions of the medium voltage cubicles in one enclosure and are called ring main units (RMU). SGC initially produced the RMU largely in piece production. However, an automated production line was required as demand increased. Manual operations had to be minimized in order to produce the RMU economically.

Large product variance requires intelligent production

The RMUs are offered in a large number of product variants. With manual production, this large range of variants required the maximum degree of care in the production documentation, particularly the tests that the RMUs have to go through during and after production.

To ensure efficient and above all error-free production in spite of the high level of complexity, SGC decided on using an RFID system. This is required to identify each RMU at any time in production with a one-off identification code. Thus all relevant data from the ERP system is linked to this identification code and is available in the production environment.

Large range through UHF system

The read/write range of up to 70 centimeters that was possible with HF technology was not enough. The decision was to use a UHF system with a larger range.

With the programmable BL20 gateway, Turck is able to offer a solution that takes over the control tasks and can thus operate independently of higher-level systems. The system communicates with the ERP system of SGC via TCP/IP. SGC has minimized the risk of a double reading by only permitting the BL20-RFID interface to read one read/write head.

“The greatest benefits of the RFID system are the increased flexibility, the increased safety, the permanent traceability of each production step, as well as the minimum manual operation required,” explains Sophie Vandoorne.

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