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RFID Finds Buses for Blue Bird at Manufacturing Site

The global bus maker has installed an active RFID system from GuardRFID that locates buses as they move through finishing processes following assembly, and as they leave the facility for sale.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 03, 2018

U.S. bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp. has deployed an active RFID-based solution that helps to manage the status and location of buses as they are driven through finishing processes following assembly, and then transported to dealers. "With this technology," says Matt Walker, Blue Bird's manufacturing engineering specialist, "we have been able to reduce the amount of time employees spend searching for buses, and can better ensure that the vehicles are processed in a timely manner."

The system consists of active 433 MHz RFID tags and a reader network, as well as software to manage the collected reader data, provided by GuardRFID. In addition to tracking the general locations of buses throughout its 40-acre yard in Fort Valley, Ga., the company can pinpoint a particular vehicle's exact location using an RFID-enabled golf cart that operators drive around the yard.

A solar-powered reader
Blue Bird manufactures school buses, as well as security, ambulance and transit buses sold in North America and worldwide. Each bus is built to order, meeting the needs of each customer, such as a specific school district and state.

This makes for a complex manufacturing environment. In an effort to take full advantage of its assembly lines, equipment and workers, Blue Bird schedules a mix of product order types. For example, the bus company sometimes has an order under way that may not be required for several months, while at the same time another order that needs to be delivered within days—both of which are being handled on the same production line.

Buses undergo a series of finishing processes in multiple buildings—including front end alignment, air conditioning, water and road testing, pre-delivery inspections and certification—before being placed in staging for delivery. Previously, when individual buses needed to be moved to the next process, employees had to physically search for the vehicles in question. "It was no easy task," Walker says. "Many of the buses look quite similar. In fact, we dedicated an entire job position simply for an individual to use paper and his brain to track the approximately 500 buses in the yard at any given time."

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