RFID for Automobile Production

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Sep 09, 2010 @ 10:05 AM

From Ford to Fahrvergnügen, RFID Expands the Opportunity to Streamline Production and Lower Manufacturing Costs

In 1885, Karl Benz built the first car run on an internal combustion gasoline engine and began the production of automobiles in 1888.  In 1908, the Model T was introduced by the Ford Motor Company, followed by the introduction of the assembly line method of mass production.  Henry Ford’s commitment to streamlining production and lowering costs continues in the automotive industry today, which has more challenges and complexities than ever before.

VW LemonWith components supplied by more than 4,000 suppliers and complex processes like subassembly procurement and pre-delivery planning, automobile manufacturers are challenged with maintaining a competitive edge.  Manufacturers continuously need to find new ways to improve material flow, optimize planning and streamline the transport process.  Today, RFID is playing a crucial role in addressing these challenges.

With this week’s 100 Uses of RFID program focusing on the transportation market and having been a Volkswagen owner for many years, I have a personal interest in covering Volkswagen’s use of RFID.  With their dedication to manufacturing quality and the creative ways they differentiate their brand, I’m not at all surprised by Europe's leading vehicle manufacturer’s use of RFID to drive improvements into their supply chain and manufacturing processes.

To improve its material logistics operations and implement an integrated, paperless production and logistics chain, Volkswagen has partnered with IBM.  According to an IBM announcement, VW is driving to become the first vehicle manufacturer to make daily use of RFID in its supply chain and manufacturing processes.  

Highlights of VW’s use of RFID include:

  • Parts suppliers are applying RFID tags to shipping containers carrying auto parts destined for Volkswagen
  • Data from the tagged containers is automatically collected by RFID Readers at key locations throughout the supply chain including supplier shipping areas, various transportation points, parts receiving areas at Volkswagen, during storage, and on the assembly line
  • The same RFID system is used to ensure that all empty containers are returned to Volkswagen’s suppliers

Given the size and complexities of the automobile supply chain and manufacturing process, companies like Volkswagen are implementing RFID to automate key areas of their operations.  Do you expect more automakers to implement similar applications to compete with the lemons coming off of the production line?  Let us know your thoughts.

Tags: RFID, Supply Chain, Automobile Production

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