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RFID Drives Efficiency for Kia Vehicle Finishing and Shipment

U.K. logistics provider Paragon Automotive is using passive UHF RFID tags to track the receipt, finishing, storage and shipment of cars at its workshops and outdoor storage compound.
By Claire Swedberg
May 09, 2016

U.K. logistics provider Paragon Automotive is employing a radio frequency identification solution to track Kia vehicles near the Port of Immingham, on England's east coast, as vehicles are painted or otherwise modified, stored and then shipped to retail locations. The system consists of Paragon's own management software, a combination of mobile and fixed RFID readers, and an EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag attached to each vehicle so that the company can track its location. Using RFID enables Paragon to meet the high-volume, fast-paced requirements of an automotive market that has been growing in the United Kingdom.

Last year, Kia opened its new 35-hectare (86.5-acre) facility in Stallingborough for receiving vehicles manufactured abroad, finishing them and then shipping those cars to retail locations or fleets, such as rental agencies, in the United Kingdom. Paragon provides onsite storage and finishing services for those vehicles. The automotive service company installed its RFID system to boost visibility into the locations of cars, in order to increase its efficiency. Paragon serves auto manufacturers with refurbishment services for used cars, as well as finishing services for new vehicles. In the latter case, the company provides port operations, including preparing vehicles according to customer requirements, storing them in secure outdoor compounds and then releasing them for shipping. The firm services 750,000 used and new cars annually.

Tagged Kia vehicles are parked in Paragon's storage lots.
The market for new cars is growing, Paragon reports. According to the company, 2.63 million new vehicles were sold in the United Kingdom last year, setting a new record and signaling the fourth consecutive year in which the market has grown. The importing of these vehicles has put pressure on car manufacturers and their logistics suppliers to get the vehicles to retail locations in larger volumes and at a faster pace. Kia has approximately 20,000 new vehicles at its new port site at any given time, with an annual volume of 100,000.

Tracking the locations of all those cars manually is a time-consuming process, according to Chris Higgins, Paragon's group IT director. In fact, he says, a single inventory check of 20,000 vehicles would take a team of 20 employees an entire weekend to verify where each car is located. None of the new cars has a license plate fitted yet, making them difficult to identify visually.

Paragon's Chris Higgins
In addition, operators need to be able to locate cars as they are moved through the finishing process, and that typically means considerable effort related to manually inputting locations into a system so that the information can later be used to find those vehicles. Each car is stored in a space identified by a particular row and bay. So an address could be, for instance, "Arrivals, row AA, bay 22." Every time an operator moves a vehicle, he or she uses a rugged Android-based handheld device to manually record the new location, along with the car's vehicle identification number (VIN).

"We definitely see RFID as a way of simplifying processes and making us more efficient," Higgins says. The technology is being used to corroborate the location data of a vehicle in storage—to determine, for instance, if a specific car is not parked in the zone, row and bay to which it was assigned. "Use of RFID means that we have a secondary method of locating any unit, in the event that the human operator did not record the location correctly." The company relies on data regarding zone, row and bay addresses that are manually inputted into Paragon's Evolution software, while the RFID system confirms that data. In addition, he says, RFID enables users in the workshop to identify a vehicle via a handheld reader, rather than having to enter the last eight digits of its VIN.

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