“We have thread labelling on transfer pallets, which have 120 tires,” he said. “Just by driving through a portal on a forklift truck we can read all those tires, uniquely within a second.
“This is not read-once, but 2030 times because normally the rate of reading is about 100 times per second. As you can imagine that it really is very fast.”
Another advantage is that conventional barcode labels require a line-of-sight, so that the tag has always to be on the outside. With RFID, said Flederus, the tag can be on the inside of the tread and still be read from up to 7 metres away.
RFID identifiers could also enable real-time tracking throughout the whole life-cycle of the tire, from production and distribution to sales, after-sales and recycling, Ferm’s boss suggested.
“In a few years tire manufacturers will be obliged to get their own tires back at end-of-life,” said Flederus. “That means they will want to be sure that they only get back their tires and not those of the competitor.”
Other advantages include greater protection from copying as RFID tags can be encrypted. This, said Flederus, can help companies protect their brands because it prevents copycat tires from entering the market.
Identifying which companies are actually using RFID label technology, and how and where, seems difficult at present. For its part, Ferm lists Apollo, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli and Trelleborg among “reference” clients for its technology and services more generally.
“A lot of tire makers are already working with RFID both in tire labelling and manufacturing processes,” said Flederus, listing Continental, Michelin and Goodyear among the most active companies.
Flederus went on to say that Ferm had started supplying tire tread labels to the United Arab Emirates, where the use of these identifiers became mandatory – to counter imports of sub-standard tires – in 2012. The company, he added, is also now in discussions with Qatar which is also introducing similar requirements.
Ferm has its eyes on developments in much bigger markets, including the US, where regulators are looking into the use of RFID as a more reliable and effective alternative to barcoding.
Flederus is also looking to take RFID into the tire manufacturing process, according to the company leader.
“I am not allowed to say with which company, but we are also tagging all the tools and assets which you need to produce a tire,” he said. “Not only the green tire itself, but also the equipment and consumables required to produce a tire.”