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Automated Slab Tracking at ThyssenKrupp

 Automated Slab Tracking at ThyssenKrupp - IoT ONE Case Study
Technology Category
  • Networks & Connectivity - RFID
  • Wearables - Tags & Patches
Applicable Industries
  • Metals
Applicable Functions
  • Logistics & Transportation
Use Cases
  • Track & Trace of Assets
The Challenge
Steel slabs usually weigh between 20 to 40 tons each. After production, the surface is scaly and rusty. Outdoor storage and sea shipment expose the slabs to rough conditions. Loading ocean vessels is time consuming and total cost can easily exceed a few hundred thousand USD. RFID technology offers many benefits. RFID transponders are small, store the identity of the labelled product and enable reading out this data via antennas from a distance of several metres. However, there are special requirements for the use of RFID in the steel sector. Firstly, the radio waves of the RFID readers are reflected by metal which creates major problems for reading out. And secondly, they must be attached securely as the heavy slabs weigh tons and can rub against each other during the transport on ships and trains, causing the labels to become detached or to be destroyed.
The Customer
ThyssenKrupp Steel
About The Customer
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe is one of the world’s leading suppliers of high-grade flat steel. With around 27,000 employees the group supplies high-quality steel products for innovative and demanding applications in a wide range of industries. Customer-speci
The Solution
“We had cooperated with other identification companies and system developers in the past. We knew that an RFID tag
that has been bent away from a steel slab can still be read. However, the problem was that the solutions suggested by
other companies did not have sufficient adhesion or applying the labels would have required costly special processes
and systems in our Brazilian plant,” Loïc Feinbier recalls.

The breakthrough was achieved by the cooperation with the experts from S+P Samson GmbH who brought their many
years of experience with identification for steel logistics to the project.

S+P Samson developed an adhesive label made from a film which had the transponder part bent away from the slab like
a flag, via a simple perforation, so that it can be read. Another benefit: S+P labels and tags could be printed using a standard Lexmark laser printer which has an additional RFID unit fitted that writes the chips. As printing and RFID programming is done at the same time, the number of work steps and potential errors are minimised, particularly, as the successful encoding if the RFID tag is verified during the printing process. “The readability of the RFID signals in a metallic environment had initially been regarded as the main challenge. Interestingly, reading out the RFID tags in the steel sector via flexible tags that were sticking out at a right angle was much quicker and easier to solve than expected. It was a much bigger challenge to develop a special adhesive for applying the labels to the rough surfaces of the slabs which have to adhere reliably in spite of wet conditions or surface issues such as scale,” explains Karl Tochtermann the contribution of S+P Samson to the success of the project.
Operational Impact
  • [Efficiency Improvement - Operation]
    Time and cost for loading of ocean vessels reduced.
  • [Efficiency Improvement - Labor]
    Due to increased reading distance of tags with RFID, work force on site was reduced, reducing risk of accidents as well
  • [Process Optimization - Real Time Asset Tracking]
    ThyssenKrupp knows exactly where each slab is at all times during transport and is therefore able to plan more accurately and to fulfil customer orders more reliably.
Quantitative Benefit
  • ROI achieved well within 5 years

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