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, Bala Ram, Mojahid Saeed Osman Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University; Greensboro, North Carolina 27411, USA Abstract
It is anticipated that product life cycle management of durable products might be significantly improved by the introduction of read/write automatic identification technologies (AIT) such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Such technology significantly expands available life cycle strategies, most notably enabling more distributed decision-making and enhancing data collection. Progressive collection and tag storage of life cycle data might be particularly useful for later life cycle activities such as product operation, maintenance and disposal. As the product enters into different activities, the data on the tag might be altered. This paper presents an adaptive agent-based architecture and approach to data allocation on such tags. The approach considers memory constraints, data correlation, and data value.
Keywords: Life Cycle Management, Agents, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) 1. Introduction
Much attention has been given to the potential application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to assist with a variety of logistics activities. Application areas include fleet management, supply chain tracking, animal identification, and membership cards. RFID uses tags which reside on a tracked entity to provide and possibly collect information about the entity as it progresses through some system. Tags may be self-powered (active) or externally powered (passive) and enable the communication of the data by radio transmission with readers connected to some enterprise system. Such technology offers advantages over traditional labeling or barcode including wireless communication (no line of sight required), automated collection (no manual trigger for activation), read/write capability enabling data transport, increased security, tag reading which appears to be simultaneous, improved operations in some harsh environments, ability for reuse, and potential reduction in IT infrastructure. At the forefront of groups leveraging the strengths made available by RFID technology are WalMart, Gillette, and Procter and Gamble in the private sector and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security in the public sector. Many would agree that RFID technology has the potential to offer increased levels of product visibility and data accuracy throughout a supply chain. Similar forward logistics applications are possible for durable products such as automobiles and aircraft (and component systems and parts). However, life cycle applications beyond forward logistics may be an even more fertile area for RFID technology. In order to develop this concept, the notions of nesting and the smart supply chain are introduced. This paper will focus on military applications because the military retains ownership of the entire life cycle of many of its platforms. 1.1 Nesting In forward logistics systems, RFID is usually applied using a hierarchical “nesting” structure. This technique involves the use of RFID tags for each instance or case of a product on the pallet as well as “macro tags”. A macro tag provides information about the smaller product groupings included in some form of consolidation. The macro tag may contain a code that links to a database with the previously scanned data for each of the other tags or may contain such data. There may also be macro tags at each level in consolidation, often at the case and pallet levels. This hierarchy could be extended to a tag with wireless communication and global positioning at the trailer level, allowing for constant product visibility. It should be noted, however that macro tags at higher levels of the hierarchy tend to come at a higher monetary cost due to their higher levels of capability. The information for each case on a pallet may be retrieved by scanning the pallet level macro tag. Information for each product instance may be reached in the same manner. Reading from the higher level tags is a reliable way to verify the accuracy of the information from the lower level tag readings. This solution is not limited
to containers and pallets; it can be adapted to much larger scales. The same concept might be applied to containers within a certain zone or section of a harbor or ship .
1.2 Smart Supply Chains The concept of “smart supply” chains  is receiving an increasing amount of attention within the Department of Defense logistics community. This concept has a number of analogs in industry and may be summarized as follows. With the transfer of initially data and eventually processing capability to a tag residing on a product, the control of that product within the system is likely to change dramatically. Traditional ERP systems are built based on a “data in the box” architecture with relatively centralized data schema. Such systems view RFID as an improved bar code. However, RFID technology which when coupled with a distributed agent system and properly devised processes might allow system control to be much more distributed. Decisions might be made locally without communication with the ERP system enabling a higher degree of agility. This Smart Supply Chain concept supports a bio-inspired complex adaptive approach rather than the more mechanical system view of ERP systems. The primary issue of a Smart Supply chain system is maintaining data consistency and visibility (rather than the issue of communication which is primary in traditional systems). The benefit of such distribution in terms of communication is significant. Having useful memory on the tag has the advantage of reducing enterprise bandwidth usage as well as improved security, robustness and reduced infrastructure requirements.
2. Life Cycle Management
The case for implementation of RFID technology in forward logistics is becoming increasingly attractive. Extending such concepts to product life cycle management of durable goods further increases the attractiveness. Such technology significantly expands available life cycle strategies, most notably enabling more distributed decision-making, regardless of the life cycle stage. Progressive collection and tag storage of life cycle data are particularly useful for later life cycle activities such as product maintenance and disposal. If the decision is made to add RFID technology to a part or system at any stage of the life cycle, then it often makes sense to add it as early as possible and remove it at late as possible. This best practice is driven by an attempt to gain as much life cycle benefit as possible. An initial set of life cycle and supply chain uses for RFID data is shown in Table 1. Experience of those active in this field indicates that once data are made available, new uses for the data become apparent to users throughout the supply chain and life cycle system. Several challenges limit the effective use of RFID for life cycle management of parts and systems. Often it is difficult to place RFID tags on some parts without negatively impacting the performance of the part or subjecting the RFID tag to harsh environmental conditions. RFID tags often experience read difficulty when near some metals and fluids. Beyond, these technical issues which are expected to be overcome in the near future, the shear cost of the tags and infrastructure required to support RFID is can be very large. It is difficult to determine the economic value of the data that is generated from systemic use of the data. Finally, the determination of the data to be included on the tag has a great influence on these last two challenges. Data on the tag are driven by interface with the host system (aircraft, vehicle) and the enterprise system. The interface with the host system is much like the nesting of RFID devices for consumables. The consumables nesting analogy needs to be transformed to the durable products domain, where the product (aircraft, vehicle, weapon system) would possess a positioning/wireless communication/reader. Each subassembly would have something analogous to an active tag and each part would have a passive RFID. To increase communication distance, the part RFID might be powered by energy scavenging and operate semi-actively. The weapon system would use subassembly and part information for operational optimization and health monitoring. The weapon system would write use data to the part or subassembly for use in future life cycle activities, primarily with maintenance. As sensor technology connection and processing capability are integrated into RFID, the capability of the part to perform health monitoring activities including autonomous and remote maintenance, self-learning, and health/performance memory.
Table 1. Life Cycle and Supply Chain Use of RFID Information Overall Reduced labor costs Improved data availability Security – data / product Adaptive performance management Performance tracking Design Location design Power design Integration / nesting design Enterprise integration Marketing / Sales Demand management Market analysis / segmentation Supply Product information verification Automatic invoicing Inbound product tracking Reduction in IT infrastructure Raw material sequencing Manufacturing Sorting product Product routing Dispatching rule attributes Completed processes tracking Part information for operator Inspection / process parameters Inspection / process results Assembly sequencing Assembly verification Packaging verification Packaging configuration Customer / dest information Production postponement Quality control analysis Distribution Total asset visibility/control Bulk asset verification Reduced labor costs Flexibility / distribution postponement Fault tracking / reduction Operation Health monitoring Preventive maintenance scheduling Depot Maintenance Disassembly sequencing Disassembly verification Automated configuration management Sorting product Product routing Dispatching rule attributes Task sequencing / scheduling Task / resource assignment Completed processes tracking Part information for operator Inspection/process parameters Inspection/process results Assembly sequencing Assembly verification Field Maintenance Improve parts inventory control Part replacement verification Task sequencing / scheduling Task / resource assignment Product documentation Disposal Product documentation Disassembly sequencing Disassembly verification
3 Intelligent Agents 4 Agent Architecture Concept
For consumables, RFID is typically considered useful for supply, manufacturing, and distribution activities. As described earlier, the current “data in the box” architecture of traditional enterprise systems must be dramatically changed in order to facilitate the advantages of “smart supply chains”. Viewing a logistics network as a matrix rather than a chain, the smart supply chain approach supports forward and lateral moves with distributed decisionmaking. Extending this concept to durable items is shown in Figure 1. Such RFID use in the private sector is complicated by issues of ownership, segmented systems, and privacy. However in the military and with its primary suppliers, such issues are less obstructive (though still present). Specifically, the RFID is filled with data at each node / transition point on the network. The nature of the data is discussed in the next section. The part progresses along the arc during the associated life cycle phase using RFID data with the intent of requiring little or no interaction with the enterprise system. There might be a large number of interactions that the part might have with operation, transportation, or maintenance systems. During this time, tag data might be purposefully modified,
appended, or deleted. Upon arriving at the next node, data collected during the phase might be stored by the enterprise system and new data loaded into the RFID tag.
ERP Data Transmission
Forward Logistics Field Maint.
Reman. / Depot Maint. = local communication point = ERP communication point
Figure 1: Movement of Durable Good
Given fixed data storage capacity and large amounts of candidate life cycle data, the allocation of storage space is of significant practical concern. Many current techniques propose a dedicated storage system standardized across a breadth of products. This approach might be severely limiting. Methods for expanding RFID memory allocation across the life cycle should be developed for dynamic and customizable memory allocation. Methods of data allocation on RFID have several dimensions: Data modification – Read only / Read/write - This is the typical division of RFID memory into less expensive ReadOnly tags and more capable Read/Write tags. Almost all tags considered in this paper would be read/write. Storage location – Fixed/Variable - Often fixed location space is allocated to each life cycle activity. This is similar to dedicated warehouse storage. The alternative is variable storage location which, as with warehouse systems, reduces space requirements. The current tendency toward fixed locations is often driven by political processes with an organization or by an attempt to simplify the system. Storage allocation –Static / Dynamic – Related to storage location is storage allocation. Static storage allocation states that the allocation does not change across life cycle phases. Dynamic allocation allows space allocation to change across and possibly within life cycle stages. Uniqueness – Family / Product Type / Product Instance – Finally, the uniqueness of each tag allocation may vary. In an attempt for simplicity, the current trend is for similar products (families) to have similar allocation. However, it is possible for each individual product type to have its own scheme. The most customizable level is for each product instance to have its own allocation approach. It should be noted that the more dynamic allocation methods might require increased intelligence on the part of reader and/or increase metadata requirements on the tag. Typically, the decision about the data which should be placed on the tag would be made with each interaction that the product makes with its supply chain and life cycle system. Primary allocation decisions tend to occur at those nodes (as in Figure 1) where interaction with the enterprise system occurs. At these points, the system has access to
both tag data and enterprise data that assists in determining the appropriateness and utility of including certain tag data.
5 RFID Agent Data Allocation
Tag data that might be useful for some life cycle stage are diverse and possibly very large. Examples of possible data includes part usage history, part maintenance history, last several readings, critical spare parts lists, manufacturer specifications, preventive maintenance schedules, measurement limits, last official reading, part and serial numbers, manufacturer codes, date of installation, manufacturer date/expiration date, country of origin, manufacturer information, and product documentation. If the data are variable, metadata (data describing how to use the data) might also be included. Object-oriented metadata is the basis for RFID distributed agent-based systems. Figure 2 represents this process of allocation. Specifically, input data must be analyzed, its association with output data determined, and the output data analyzed. In this case, input data are that which might be included on the RFID tag (part repair history, part operational history, manufacturing information, product information) and operational (output) data are that which are operationally useful (expected process necessity, duration, or resources; part replacement likelihood). A number of methods exist which might use operational data for improved remanufacturing/repair production scheduling and inventory control [3,4].
Input Data 1 Operation Data 1 Input Data 2 Operation Data 2 Input Data 3 Operation Data 3 Input Data 4
Figure 2: Data Allocation Process Allowing for each of the data allocation methods implied earlier encourages one to seek more dynamic analysis methods. Specifically, methods are more attractive when they allow 5.1 Input Reduction Input reduction seeks to limit the inclusion of redundant data on the tag. Initially, correlation or factor analysis can be performed to identify which data might have some level of dependency (and what is independent). This analysis does not suggest how to reduce the data. Techniques such as principle component analysis and independent component analysis assist in reducing the number of components . However the connection of the principal components to original data components through eigen-values adds difficulty. It is desirable to keep the original data elements on the tag. Another tool that could possibly be used for this work is a self-organizing neural network. A self-organizing neural network has the same capability as does the principal component analysis to take an input of many variables and reduce it to an output of fewer variables. Neural network calculations involve a network of relatively simple processing elements, in which the global behavior is determined by the connections between the processing elements and element parameters. Research is now being performed to evaluate the performance of component analysis neural networks which have the benefit of being more dynamic in nature. Limitation of input data is completed prior to starting the next task.
5.2 Input/Output Association Input / output association can be done by statistical regression or error back-propagation neural networks, the latter offering the advantage of more dynamicism. This analysis leads to further data reduction by eliminating input data that have little value in operational prediction (0 coefficient in regression or little impact on outputs when varied as neural network input. The operational value must be connected to the associated input data to determine its aggregate value. 5.3 Operational Data Correlation Finally, the operational dependencies among output data might also be used. Such data is often recognized over time so that initial values might enable more accurate prediction of subsequent operational measures. An approach to this that handles discrete, continuous, and mixed distributions is presented in Stanfield et. al. . This method allows matching of correlation structures, continuous distribution moments, and generalization in the case of sparse data. 5.3 Tag Memory Allocation The general formulation is that it is desired to minimize the value of data left off of the tag. This is equivalent to maximizing the value of the data on the tag. The value for a piece of data is a function of its usefulness and its ability to explain data left off the tag. The usefulness of the data is determined by the frequency of its utility across the supply chain and the average value of each use. The problem is formulated as follows (problem is formulated as minimizing value of unexplained data): Objective Minimize:
u i vi for all data off the tag
Subject to memory capacity of tag not exceeded and where ui is the unexplained variation in data item i left off the tag and vi is its value. Note that this problem is equivalent to minimizing value for data off the tag if the data is independent. It is equivalent to minimizing the unexplained variation in data off the tag if the data is equivalent in value. This second scenario is for the basis for the following interchange algorithm (which can be easily extended to address the general problem).
6 RFID Agent Architecture
Table 2 below shows the RFID data storage scheme proposed for parts as they move throughout the life cycle network. The upper section labeled “CORE DATA” will be used primarily to store part data that will remain permanent and relatively stagnant. Though core data will not change very often, updates will occur. Updates to data values (manufacturer names, serial numbers, etc.) will occur relatively sporadically via communication with a large scale ERP system. This communication occurs only when a part is at an ERP connection node. Table 2 Simple Data Allocation
C O R E T R A N S I E N T
D A T A D A T A
DATA VALUE: 78901 DATA VALUE + SYSTEM WORTH: 74561- 8
DATA ID Avg. Temp.Hrs. Flight Prev. Loc. Maint. Date Weight
DATA VALUE 79 C° 01:36:12 Munich 06/14/06 21.45 lbs.
SYSTEM WORTH 8 10 4 7 5
Data is considered as “Core Data” when it has high “worth” across all phases of the life cycle network. The lower section labeled “TRANSIENT DATA” is used to store data that is likely to change dynamically as parts move throughout the life cycle network. For example, “Average Temperature” for a part may be recorded as 79°C (Figure 1). On a scale that ranges from 1 to 10, temperature data for this part type may have a relatively high level of worth (8). Data worth is evaluated periodically and is a function of data utility, data correlation to other types of data, and frequency of data use. Ideally, when two (or more) data types are highly correlated, only one of the data types will remain in use as core data on a part’s RFID tag. The data type with the highest levels of utility and frequency of use would be considered as the data type with the most worth and, therefore, remain in use instead of the other data type(s). Data Relationships within Phases Figure 3 below shows the relationship between incoming and outgoing data (from a part’s perspective) as a part moves from one phase (e.g., Field Maintenance) to another phase. The arrows connecting the incoming and outgoing data stages show that in many cases, the incoming/outgoing data at one stage of a given phase should be of the same type as the incoming/outgoing data at a later stage of the same phase. This data is considered as transient data, as the data values are likely to change dynamically during operation.
Figure 3 Dynamic Data Allocation For example, considering the outermost connection between incoming data at the “ENTRY” stage and outgoing data at the “DEPARTURE” stage, data which appears at the “ENTRY” stage is likely to be of the same type, value, and worth as the outgoing data at the “DEPARTURE” stage. In most cases such data will be core data since its specific value and worth are not likely to have changed throughout the course of operation at a particular phase of the life cycle network. Considering the two inner connections between 1) incoming data at the “ENTRY” stage and outgoing data at the “DURING” stage, and 2) incoming data at the “DURING” stage and outgoing data at the “DEPARTURE” stage, unlike the core data discussed above, this data is subject to frequent changes in terms of its worth and value. Because of its dynamism, this data would be considered transient data.
The agent architecture and associated processes are currently under development to implement this process. This includes issues of data allocation, information value, communication, and system dynamics. This bio-inspired approach is significantly more capable of producing benefit as compared to current approaches which are more ERP system-based.
This paper presents a conceptual discussion of the use for RFID technology to improve life cycle management of durable goods. Specifically, data allocation on the tags was addressed. Such allocation is influenced by the interaction of a durable good (part) with its host system and the life cycle enterprise system. With an emphasis on reducing tag memory requirements, a taxonomy of allocation strategies is proposed. A generalized method for determining and using data was described. This method might change as new applications for the data become available.
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