Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, which allows for the storage and retrieval of information using radio waves, has enabled a new kind of internet-connected smart tire. These RFID-equipped tires can significantly benefit the industry during the manufacturing process and after they have been sold.
These are some of the RFID applications that have had the greatest impact on the tire industry so far.
Michelin plans to outfit all its new tires with RFID by 2023. The manufacturer believes this is a cost-effective solution for tracking the tires “from cradle to grave” and could enable more effective maintenance programs.
RFID tags contain information about the tire — including its model, width, aspect ratio, and lot number. This data can be valuable for various use cases. A repair shop with an RFID scanner could quickly check for recalls based on lot number or tire type. A mechanic could scan a new tire to see if it’s compatible with the make and model of a customer’s vehicle.
The information from RFID tags could also help Michelin improve maintenance and stage more effective recalls. For example, if tires from a particular production batch often fail, RFID tags could be used to quickly identify and recall only the defective ones.
RFID systems can also provide value to businesses in the tire industry other than manufacturers. Vendors can use RFID tags to more efficiently track inventory and warehouses. The tags could enable them to identify which tires they sold most often, helping them prevent stockouts of in-demand tire brands.
While not in widespread use yet, early research on RFID-powered inventory tracking has offered promising results. One study on RFID in inventory management found a potential 27% improvement in accuracy with the use of the technology — a sign that adoption by tire vendors could provide significant value.
The same RFID tags used to improve inventory tracking could also be recovered from tires before recycling. They could provide car owners or recyclers with an easy alternative to traditional proof of recycling tracking methods.
While most tires are reused in one way or another, 11% of them still go to landfills and another 49% are burned for fuel, releasing heavy metals and other harmful particulate matter. Finding new ways to incentivize recycling could help improve those numbers.
Information from RFID-powered proof of recycling systems could be used to better track the number of tires recycled or comply with local regulations. It would also make it easier for manufacturers to offer incentives to end-users and tire recyclers.
Having a proven recycling system in place could provide value to clients of the recycling center by improving the traceability of local efforts. With the right information and reporting standards, consumers could know exactly which tires went into the creation of new rubber products or where items from a particular municipality go to be recycled.
RFID tags can also streamline the manufacturing process and improve quality control in tire factories.
For example, in the same way RFID can improve inventory management processes by vendors, it can also help improve inventory and asset management in factories. Tire manufacturers can outfit trolleys, autonomous guided vehicles, and conveyors with RFID tags, providing them with better information on how quickly products and raw materials move through the factory.
Tire build machines (TBMs) could use RFID tags on material reels, parts, and tools to ensure the correct materials and manufacturing methods are used for each production run.
Labels could also be used to mark pallets or containers of raw materials, helping manufacturers visualize the flow of raw materials throughout the facility in near real-time. Information from RFID could reveal If factory layout or processes are creating bottlenecks that slow the movement of raw materials. This allows owners to make changes to factory processes that are affecting production.
As major manufacturers like Michelin begin to fully incorporate RFID into their new tires, the technology could offer some major utility for manufacturers, vendors, and recyclers. Easier recycling, improved tire tracking, and streamlined inventory management could all be made possible with the use of RFID labels.