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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
Today, Aston Martin's staff attaches a Ubisense battery-powered 6-8 GHz ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID tag to the inside of each vehicle's windshield once the cars have been assembled and are headed for the offline processes. The company installed approximately 44 Ubisense readers—known as Ubisensors—within the facility at the finishing area, as well as outside where vehicles were stored.

Each tag sends its unique ID number by emitting a series of short signals (as short as billionths of a second) to the readers; those signals are emitted at a variable rate, depending on whether the tag is moving or stationary. The readers then transmit the ID numbers to the back-end Web-based Ubisense server, where software calculates the tag's location within about 6 inches, by analyzing the strength of the RF signals, as well as the interrogators' locations.

The software also links each tag's ID number with data about each car, such as its vehicle identification number (VIN) and description. Each time the car passes from one place to another, Green says, its new location is sent via the readers, which can receive signals from tags as far away as 150 meters (492 feet) outdoors, and 60 to 80 meters (197 to 262 feet) indoors.

Aston Martin's employees can then go online to see where the vehicle is located. The Ubisense server provides a map of the facility, with an icon indicating each car's specific location. Users can also see a history of the processes a specific vehicle has undergone, and when, as well as which processes remain ahead. If the car deviates from an expected procedure—such as leaving the finishing line without completing every stage—an alert can be sent to designated Aston Martin personnel. Once the vehicle has completed the finishing process, its tag is removed for reuse on another car.

"It's working extremely well," Lines says, "especially for finding individual cars in the system and tracking the flow through the off-tracks processes." That has led to a time savings for Aston Martin's staff that would previously have been spent simply locating a missing vehicle. "Also, we are increasing the usage of the system to generate both business and performance metrics as awareness within Aston Martin of the system's capabilities improves." In this case, the company can track the time spent on particular procedures, and then make business decisions related to delays vehicles experience during specific processes.

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