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Tire Manufacturers Roll Forward With RFID

Kumho has begun applying tags to all of its Korean-made tires, while Michelin says it is opening up some of its 40 RFID-related patents, in order to accelerate the use of RFID by the tire industry.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 01, 2013

Beginning next year, all 35 million tires manufactured annually in Korea by Kumho Tires will come equipped with a passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) radio frequency identification tag to enable it to be tracked at Kumho's factory, through the supply chain, at stores and by owners, such as fleet managers.

Working with one of its sister companies, Asiana IDT, a developer and provider of IT products and services, Kumho developed a slim, rectangular patch-type UHF EPC RFID tag that is embedded inside a tire's inner liner during a high-temperature and -pressure manufacturing process. The company expects to have tagged approximately 14 million tires by the end of this year, and plans, starting in 2014, to place tags on all of the 35 million tires it produces in Korea annually. In so doing, the firm expects to reduce its annual costs by about US$9 million, by reducing errors, simplifying lot-identification methods and addressing customer claims. What's more, Kumho reports that the quantity of tags at its overseas factories is expected to increase according to each plant's construction progress.

In the meantime, the company has begun tagging all bus and truck tires manufactured at its sites in Gwangji and Gokseung, as well as some original equipment (OE) tires for certain carmakers. Later this year, it will start applying tags to all car tires for domestic sales, which will lead into the worldwide deployment that will include all of Kumho's manufacturing sites worldwide.

Dealers and consumers of Kumho tires can use the tags for inventory management and logistics at distribution centers, says Megan Wentz, Kumho Tire USA's marketing communications coordinator, as well as to track a particular tire's individual lifespan and wear. "For many years," she explains, "our company has been conducting research and development on efficient logistics management," including reducing the incidence of human errors and strengthening quality management by utilizing electronic systems for tracing product lots. Kumho did not respond to questions regarding whether it followed any of the tire industry's RFID-related standards (such as AIAG B11, JAIF B21, ISO 17367, TMC RP 247, GS1-EPC or TDS 1.5) while developing its tag and its embedding process, or the sort of data schema that it is using to encode those tags.

The company examined bar codes and a variety of RFID solutions, and found that radio frequency identification enabled a greater recognition rate of unique identifiers within dusty manufacturing environments than bar codes, and that the technology could also allow for the storing of sensor data, such as temperatures and pressure conditions. The firm then proceeded to develop a low-cost RFID tag.

Initially, Kumho Tires is embedding the tags on the surface of the inner liner of tires manufactured at its Gwangju and Gokseong sites in Korea. The firm's engineers are still developing the tags, however, in order to improve their functionality. For example, Wentz says, the read rate has tended to drop according to conditions related to how the tires were used after installation. The company is presently working to reduce this problem, and to ensure that the tags maintain their ability to be read throughout a tire's lifespan.

Kumho will track the tagged tires at its own plants, using its own Web-based RFID software. In the future, consumers will be able to connect to that software via a portal in order to review logistics data, along with quality information regarding a particular tire, based on its RFID tag number. Fleet managers and other users can also add their own driving information, thereby creating a record for tire management.

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