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Daimler Truck Factory Boosts Productivity

At its plant in Saltillo, Mexico, Daimler Trucks North America is using an RFID system from PINC to track the locations of more than 500 trailers loaded with materials.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 11, 2013

The Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) assembly facility in Saltillo, Mexico, is employing a radio frequency identification system provided by PINC Solutions to know exactly where within its yard each trailer loaded with specific materials and components is located. By attaching passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to the trailers, the company can direct yard-truck drivers to the specific location where trailers need to be retrieved and then delivered, thereby saving time that the staff previously spent driving around the yard reading serial numbers, using the radio, and manually writing down trailer ID numbers on paper.

The 1.3-million-square-foot facility includes a 200,000-square-foot logistics center and an 875,000-square-foot plant that produces 30,000 Freightliner Cascadia model Class 8 trucks annually, which are then sold throughout North America. The plant, which opened in 2009, is one of the newest operated by DTNA, a division of Daimler AG. Approximately one year ago, the factory's new manager asked DTNA's IT department—based at the company's headquarters in Portland, Oregon—to help set up a solution that would provide automated trailer management within the yard.

The sheer volume of materials and components moving through the site requires an extensive management system to track the trailers; however, the company reports, the existing solution was manual and labor-intensive. An average of 550 trailers are parked within the yard at any given time, storing materials brought from suppliers waiting to be unloaded, as needed, at one of the plant's approximately 175 dock doors. About 180 new trailers arrive onsite daily, each with a deadline indicating when it must be returned. If those deadlines are not met, DTNA must begin paying detention fees.

Sometimes, a trailer is only partially unloaded, and is then parked again until additional materials are required. In addition, when a specific material is necessary for assembly, yard managers must locate the trailer within the yard. If it cannot be found, this can result in assembly delays. For that reason, the company often stores about three days' worth of materials in the trailers, in order to ensure that such delays never occur.

DTNA was tracking the trailers' locations based on data manually recorded by the yard staff. Workers were typically able to move about three trailers per hour, by seeking a particular trailer based on printed details pertaining to its location, and then delivering it to the appropriate dock door. When the plant manager explained these constraints to the IT department, Roderick Flores, DTNA's IT project manager, says he and his colleagues "took that message to heart." The department then began searching for solutions. "We did our due diligence and looked at active RFID, but then chose passive," he explains, because of the reduced need for an RFID infrastructure or battery-powered tags.


Stephen Hurley 2013-07-10 12:08:00 PM
Good article and interesting application for pRFID. The article states, "DTNA transmits a list of tasks to the driver's computer, including the location of the trailer to be picked up...". I'm curious how the exact location of the trailer is determined by the system early on. The holding area only has a reader at rthe gate. Did they drive the mule around the yard when the system first went on line to capture the all of the tagID/GPS coordinates for the holding yard? It's easy to understand how tagID/GPS coordinates are updated once the initial location is determined.
Pradeep Bhanot 2013-09-02 03:23:43 PM
@Stephen: As trucks enter the yard, passive RFID tags are magnetically attached to the trailer. The mule trucks are equipped with PINC RFID scanners that constantly create and update the trailer inventory using 4G networking, as they drive around the yard.

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