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Nissan Deploys Active RFID at Mississippi Plant

Nissan North America is deploying an active RFID tracking system from WhereNet at its Canton, Mississippi, facility to improve vehicle tracking, quality control, and production velocity. The system will track finished vehicles, as well as trucks moving in and out of the complex.
Nov 30, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

November 30, 2006—Nissan North America will use an active RFID tracking system from WhereNet at a plant in Mississippi to improve vehicle tracking, quality control, and production velocity. The seven-figure contract is part of a Nissan continuous improvement initiative.

The four-million-square-foot Canton, Mississippi, plant makes Altima sedans, Infiniti SUVs, and Quest minivans, and has the capacity to produce more than 400,000 vehicles per day. WhereNet will expand the plant's existing wireless infrastructure, deploying 120 WherePort magnetic exciters at gates and key choke points in the complex, 80 wireless WhereLAN access points, and several thousand active RFID WhereTag transmitters. Installation is expected to take less than 90 days, and is scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2007.

"Nissan's goals for this system are to improve productivity and allow a higher velocity of goods in and out of the facility," said Gary Latham, director of industry solutions in WhereNet's automotive division.

According to a report released earlier this year from Venture Development Corporation, the global market for RFID in the automotive sector reached an estimated $312 million in 2005, and should experience a 20% compounded annual growth rate through 2010 (see RFID Drives into Auto Manufacturing). A separate study by AMR Research, however, found that adoption in the automotive industry was low, relative to other segments (see RFID Continues to Take Back Seat in Automotive).

Several other automakers, including BMW, Ford, GM, and Jaguar, are using WhereNet's technology for vehicle tracking, yard management, parts replenishment, and other applications. The Nissan deployment is unique, according to Latham, because multiple applications are being deployed at once. Nissan will implement both the WhereSoft Yard Management System and Vehicle Tracking and Management System. The WhereNet solutions will interface with Nissan's proprietary legacy systems, according to Latham.

Nissan also plans to deploy WhereNet's Fast Gate automated gate check-in/check-out solution, which supports sequenced parts deliveries from suppliers. The system will provide automatic entry to tagged trucks at the gate, then direct the driver to deliver the inbound load to the correct dock door based on the assembly line build plan for that shift.

"This really reduces traffic and back-ups at the gate," says Latham, noting that automated check-in and check-out will save several hours per day in labor. "It improves the flow in and out of the facility."

The integration with Nissan's manufacturing operation also boosts the potential return on investment. "Typically, these types of RFID deployments are closed-loop, point solutions," says Chantal Polsonetti, an analyst with ARC Advisory Group. "That is not the case here. Nissan will be integrating the RFID data with its enterprise architecture, and using that data to make automated decisions that will result in performance improvements and reduced labor costs."

WhereNet will provide 700 WhereTag transmitters that will be permanently attached to Nissan's dedicated supplier trailers, or temporarily attached to other trailers as they enter the yard. WhereNet will manage the tagging process for Nissan.

The vehicle tracking and yard management component will help the automaker speed deliveries to customers and dealerships. Nissan will use 1,500 WhereTags to track vehicles from the assembly line through to shipping. The vehicle tracking system ensures that each vehicle has been through all testing and repair processes before shipping.

The system is also expected to benefit Nissan's distribution partner, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, by helping their movement teams more quickly identify individual vehicles for movement or hold.

"If the vehicle goes through the inspection and there is an imperfection, it might be placed in the yard to await repair," said Latham. "In the meantime, you have shipping clerks coming back that want to move the vehicles onto the car carriers, and who might not realize that the vehicle has a quality hold on it. In the past, this was all paperwork driven. With the RFID system, what we've seen at other customer sites is that it almost completely eliminates the accidental shipment of those vehicles."
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