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Volkswagen Group's Uruguayan Importer Improves Efficiency Through RFID

The company is already using passive UHF tags to track tools, and expects sometime next year to begin tagging the Audi and Volkswagen cars it sells and maintains.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 28, 2014

For the past four years, Julio Cesar Lestido S.A., the official Uruguayan importer of cars and trucks manufactured by the Volkswagen Group, has been employing passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to track the metal tools it uses to maintain vehicles. The company says that it is now developing a plan to utilize the technology to record each vehicle's life history, including its date of import and sales information, as well as all maintenance provided.

The company, which provides maintenance and repairs services for Volkswagen, Audi and Man cars and trucks in Uruguay, has been using an RFID solution supplied by Identis RFID Systems to identify which tools are removed from a storage area at its Montevideo maintenance facility, and by whom. Julio Cesar Lestido has told Identis that the solution has reduced expenditures related to replacing tools that end up missing, and that it has also made the management of those tools more efficient, by identifying which tools are used most frequently, for how long and by whom.

Identis installed RFID antennas behind the walls of the corridor adjoining the storage room's doorway, so that the hardware would not be visible to personnel.
Julio Cesar Lestido's workers utilize specialized tools to work on the vehicles—both used and new cars—that are designed specifically for the maintenance of Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. The tools are not only high in value, but are difficult to replace, since they must be provided by the automaker itself rather than being purchased off-the-shelf. If workers cannot locate the tools they require, this can result in delays, says Enrique D'Amato, Identis RFID Systems' president and CEO.

Staff members had been borrowing tools—such as wrenches and drills—from a storage area, but the company had no visibility regarding which individual was taking which tools. Knowing who obtained particular tools would not only be useful in ensuring that those tools came back, Identis explains, but would also allow the company to know—and to intervene, if necessary—if a worker takes a tool for which he does not have authorization (for example, if that person is not trained to provide the service for which the tool is designed).

Prior to its current RFID deployment, Julio Cesar Lestido had tried other RFID solutions using passive tags affixed to the tools, but had been disappointed with the resulting performance. Because the tools are exposed to high temperatures and physical impact, a tag needed to be installed inside each tool, but the tags failed to operate well when embedded in metal. In addition, the company did not want a system in which reader antennas would be visible at its facility. For Identis, D'Amato says, this was a major challenge.

The RFID company tested multiple passive UHF RFID tags before opting for a customized version of Convergence Systems Ltd.'s Omni-ID Prox CS7310 tag. The standard version of the CS7310 tag measures 1.3 inches by 0.4 inch by 0.16 inch (3.3 centimeters by 1 centimeter by 0.4 centimeter), but the customized version is smaller, at only 2 centimeters (0.8 inch) in length and 0.8 centimeter (0.31 inch) in width. Identis then had to drill holes in the grips or metal bodies of the tools—such as wrenches and screwdrivers—and insert the customized tags inside, in such a way that they would not be visible to the tool users, or be prone to damage. Each tag was encoded with a unique ID number linked to data about the corresponding tool in Identis' Smart Tool Tracking Software (STTS).

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