The New Junkyard Dog

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 @ 10:18 AM

RFID Helps Sniff Out Hiding Vehicles in Salvage Yards

Remember that game when we were kids and the person who was “it” had to close their eyes and yell “Marco” in a swimming pool? The rest of us would respond with “Polo” while trying to fool the person into thinking we were somewhere that we weren’t. Well, auto salvage yard workers have to play a similar "game" when trying to find a specific vehicle in a lots that can span tens of acres with thousands of cars.

Typically the cars in these lots are sold at auction. When it’s time to find the car and bring it to the auction site, the manual process of identifying and locating vehicles can feel like a game of Marco Polo - or someone’s idea of a bad joke.

When a truck takes a wrecked car to a parking space in the lot, the driver writes down the car’s details, such as its VIN with the lot space number on a piece of paper. In the case of Barodge Auto Pool, as reported by RFID Journal, an office employee would receive the car’s information and enter the data into the inventory-management system, with a stock number assigned to the car by the inventory system. When auction time came, a printout of the car and its ID data was provided to the operator. This is where the manual system would break down because sometimes a lot space number was wrong or the car may have been moved to a different space. And as we are all too familiar with, numbers can get transposed when we write them down or type them in.  

 RFID Auto Location System

Recognizing the precious time spent chasing down vehicles and the inefficiency it caused, the owner of Barodge Auto Pool developed an RFID-based system to solve the problem. The new system would also eliminate the errors associated with the hand-written/data entry process. He named it the DogBone RFID Vehicle Tracking System.

The solution was to attach an adhesive UHF EPC Gen 2 tag to an auto’s windshield when it came onto the lot. A photo of the car and the tag number are sent to the company's server via a handheld device equipped with a camera and a WiFi connection. The DogBone system receives the data, including GPS location and space number, links it to the stock number and sends that data to the inventory-management system.

Each of the company's trucks comes equipped with a WiFi-enabled PC, a GPS unit and an RFID reader. The truck operator can see a photo of the car he needs to pick up, as well as a vehicle description, space number and a map, graphing the car’s physical location. Then, the reader scans the RFID tag and the software determines that the car is being picked up. The DogBone software sends an alert if it’s not a match. If a car is in a different space, DogBone updates the inventory-management software.

MyDealerLot and its partner, Electronic Inventory Solutions, were onto this idea in 2008 when they found a way to track 3,500 vehicles across three locations with WiFi-based RFID technology. In their case, they deployed solar powered outdoor receivers for real-time location of cars on auction lots.

In both cases, inefficiency drove innovation that we can all benefit from, even if indirectly. Think of the time the employees can spend doing more productive tasks and the gas saved from driving up and down these lots. I bet their neighbors are happy.

And like most successful innovations, this one can be easily adapted for other uses. Sound familiar? It should. It’s RFID.

[Image credit: Cresan Management, LLC]

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Inventory Management

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