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Aston Martin Speeds Cars Through Production

The automaker is using Ubisense RFID tags to track the locations of vehicles as they move through the final steps in the company's manufacturing process, as well as to obtain business analytics regarding the time spent at each stage.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 12, 2009High-performance car manufacturer Aston Martin is employing RFID to track the movements of its custom-made vehicles as they pass through the finishing process to ensure they are produced according to the demands of the automaker's customers.

Nick Lines, the firm's general manager of manufacturing engineering, says that the system, supplied by real-time location (RTLS) technology company Ubisense, informs Aston Martin of the whereabouts of cars during the "off-tracks" (finishing) process, how long each process takes to complete, and where bottlenecks occur. The automaker installed the RTLS at its production facility in Gaydon, Warwickshire, in early 2009.

Aston Martin assembles only 7,000 cars annually for a high-end market, with approximately 200 man-hours spent on each vehicle as it is put through rigorous testing before being made available to a customer. Every car is taken on a road test to evaluate and "bed in" the brakes, remove the silicone from the tires and appraise the vehicle's general performance. The car also undergoes a "monsoon test," in which 4,200 liters of water are sprayed onto the body to make sure it is watertight. (The water is then recycled.) Finally, the car is moved onto the "Customer Audit Line," where workers visually appraise the vehicle.

"It isn't until all these processes are complete and we are fully satisfied that the car is finished to the high-quality standards that we set, that we fit the iconic wings badge as a seal of approval," Lines says. During this testing, however, if a vehicle is found to have any problems, it is moved off the testing line and either sent outdoors to temporary buildings (where it is reworked), or stored within the facility itself for a short period of time until the issues can be rectified.

Having visibility of cars removed from the line had been nearly impossible without manually checking for them within the facility, says Richard Green, Ubisense's CEO. The company wanted a better system that would enable it to know where all of its vehicles were in real time, and to understand the dwell time at each step, as well as which model numbers took more or less time at any particular station. "We were looking for an intelligent solution to allow us to monitor cars through our off-tracks processes," Lines explains.

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