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Unipart Logistics Tests Active RFID for Automotive Customer

The U.K. company is using a system from RF Code to track when each of its five trucks are loaded with assembled parts, and when they leave its facility for delivery to a car manufacturing client.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 25, 2014

Unipart Logistics is piloting an active RFID-based system from RF Code on its vehicles that transport assembled parts from its own facility in Oxford to an automotive vehicle manufacturer in the United Kingdom. Unipart Logistics, a division of Unipart Group (a global manufacturer, full service logistics provider and consultant in lean and operational excellence), aims to determine how much value can be gained from capturing automatic data regarding when loaded vehicles pass from one location to another, thereby identifying which vehicle (and, subsequently, the goods within it) are on their way to a particular client.

A pilot commenced two weeks ago, and is expected to continue for several more months. The goal, says Richard Hankinson, Unipart Logistics' automotive director, is not only to determine whether the collection of read data can benefit his company, by improving visibility into when goods were moved, but also to provide those results to its customers. If both Unipart and its clients determine that RFID is useful in tracking data about when goods were transported out of the Unipart facility, the firm intends to launch a permanent deployment that will include additional details, such as when delivery trucks arrive at a client's site, and—by tagging the cargo—what those vehicles contain. Unipart hopes to market the solution as an added value for all of its customers.

Unipart Logistics offers production services (the manufacturing of products such as automotive parts) and after-market services (moving goods from supplier to customers). , According to Hankinson, the company has been investigating the value of RFID technology to improve supply chain efficiency for more than a decade.

The company found that the RFID technology it had tested provided limited value to the after-market industry, since monitoring the movements of goods often consisted of tracking large containers on sea vessels, and the exact timing of such transportation is not vital. However, Hankinson says, in the case of production, timing can be very critical. In this case, Unipart Logistics manufactures parts that must be used in assembly by an automotive company, and must be delivered at very precise times in order to avoid causing production delays on the auto company's assembly line. "Even 10 minutes outside of a delivery window is a problem," Hankinson states.

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