Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Traditionally, in many sectors, the management of containers can be inefficient and in some cases non-existent. In the automotive sectors there are significant quantities of these high-value containers which are critical to maintaining efficient and reliable production. Many of these contain sub-sets of a whole vehicle. Suppliers need these bespoke containers to load the finished product into, ready for collection and delivery to trackside at manufacturing plants. The direct and indirect costs of this inefficient process have been frequently documented and run into many millions of pounds across all automotive manufacturers and their supply chains. This project is applying a technology based on the radio frequency system first used as a ‘friend or foe’ identifier in World War II. Advances in technology have developed this basic system into a highly sophisticated version of that earlier simple application.
WMG's pilot is using emerging active RFID technology equipment installed at Land Rover Solihull, Jaguar Castle Bromwich and 18 suppliers, mainly from the West Midlands area, to gather data on the potential of RFID to work effectively in harsh environments, such as the automotive industry.
The data will be collected automatically and remotely without any human intervention, significantly reducing operating costs. The current pilot will track high value special steel stillages used in body-in-white and trim and final production.
Research has identified many potential gains in the area of material scheduling which could lead to improvements and optimisation of production runs. The system provides 100 per cent visibility of all stillages, the location, the last and next destination and a description of the contents of each stillage. This is a very powerful data set which has yet to be fully realised and exploited.
Through the total visibility of the stillages early data has shown it is possible to reduce and eventually remove the need for any alternative packaging to support any schedule request by the suppliers. Once all the stillages, supplier sites, 3LP sites and external cross docks/market places have been RFID-enabled, the information being provided by the system will negate the need for any alternative packing. The system will also significantly remove the need to decant material when suitable containers are not available to support the production environments.
Once the data has been gathered for a sufficient period of time the business case will be completed. The pilot should set the ground work for the system to be deployed across the entire extended supply chain, thus providing real time, 100 per cent visibility of all containers. The resulting system will remove the need for any emergency transport as each supplier loop will be tracked and maintained remotely and each stake holder will be informed of any potential issues before they arise.
The core team is entirely funded by Advantage West Midlands working full time at the University of Warwick entirely focused on determining the best and most effective solution for the industry. Between us we have over 100 years of experience working with the automotive sector.
An ambition of all the partners of this project is to take the skills and knowledge gained during this unique experience and develop this with other customers. Every partner has identified opportunities to improve their own capabilities and become more competitive in an increasingly difficult market. Savi Technology, a Lockheed Martin company is leading the world in RFID technologies and was selected by WMG as the key partner for this project.