Savings For Automakers Using Active RFID - InformationWeek
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9/1/2004
05:45 PM
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Savings For Automakers Using Active RFID

WhereNet is pushing its vehicle-tracking and management app that can be used to locate a car in a lot, plus or minus 10 feet.

WhereNet Corp.'s vehicle-tracking and management software is helping automakers, distributors, and renters cut labor costs, improve vehicle quality, and speed vehicle delivery. The app is based on real-time locating system technology, which is an active form of radio-frequency identification.

Gary Latham, a marketing director for WhereNet, presents a scenario: Imagine a parking lot with 1,000 white Ford Escorts. Someone is told to manually find the Escort with the vehicle identification number 123. WhereNet's software is designed for such situations. It knows where each vehicle is at all times and can quickly track a vehicle with an accuracy of 10 feet or less.

"VTMS allows manufacturers to know where in the process a vehicle is, how long it has been sitting there, what time it arrived, and what time it left," says Latham.

At some point along the assembly line, a WhereTag is placed on each vehicle, typically on the rearview mirror. The tag has a unique identifier, which is "married" to the VIN. Whenever the tag blinks, it sends a signal to the RTLS locating system, which then tracks the vehicle. WhereNet's real-time locating system architecture includes a group of WhereLAN locating access points that capture and calculate every tagged vehicle or asset.

WhereNet's vehicle-tracking and management software is a single wireless infrastructure that provides both location and two-way mobile communication in a single system. The software enables automakers, distributors, and renters to track the processing of every vehicle. The launch process is essential to manufacturers, Latham says. But there are many issues that manufacturers have to deal with, such as parts shortages and delivery quality. On average, manufacturers build up 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles, depending on how large the distribution area is. Vehicle-tracking and management software creates a history of a vehicle's progress through the off-line process (the post-assembly-line stage, including inspection, tests, and repairs), automates and directs the work flow, tracks down vehicles with quality defects, and prevents vehicles with defects from being shipped.

"We've now taken active RFID and the capability of creating all this information and come up with an advanced application [VTMS] that automates the management of automotive facilities," Latham says. It "allows the system to run the day-to-day operations."

Latham says the vehicle-tracking and management software is helping automotive companies solve major supply-chain problems. The software cuts the time it takes a manufacturer to deliver a vehicle by one to three days. It increases productivity by 20% to 25%. It prevents warranty costs, which is a major advantage, Latham says. One warranty repair is about 10 times the cost of repairing a vehicle at the manufacturing facility. WhereNet estimates that the vehicle-tracking and management software is going to save automotive companies close to $1 million dollars in warranty repairs.

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