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RFID Speeds Police Vehicles Through Assembly

Troy Design and Manufacturing is expanding an EPC UHF RFID system to track the movements of Ford vehicles through 10 or more procedures that modify the cars for use by police forces.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 14, 2014

Troy Design and Manufacturing Co. (TDM) is expanding an RFID-based solution that it installed with the opening of its new plant in Chicago, to further reduce the amount of labor time employees spend manually tracking work-in–progress (WIP) on paper. Three years after installing the system at the new plant—which converts various vehicles from Ford Motor Co. into Police Interceptor models—TDM's management reports that the solution saves time, as well as enabling personnel to focus on the value-based work at hand.

When the plant opened in early 2011, it included a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID-based system provided by Lowry Solutions, using RFID readers and antennas from Motorola Solutions and RFID middleware supplied by Austrian company 7iD Technologies to make the identification of products through the assembly line a hands-free process. TDM's Chicago Modification Center converts more than 150 Ford Explorer and Taurus vehicles daily into Police Interceptor versions for Ford Motor Co., its parent firm.

TDM's Chicago Modification Center converts more than 150 vehicles daily into Police Interceptor versions, including the Ford Taurus.
Until 2011, third-party factories modified Ford's vehicles for police work. Ford launched TDM so that it could to keep the work in-house and opened the new plant, which is dedicated to converting vehicles produced by Ford's Chicago car factory. TDM needs to track every car through four assembly lines, each containing approximately 10 workstations, where a variety of processes are carried out, such as bullet-proofing the doors, installing lights and incorporating other modifications specific to a customer's particular needs.

Since each vehicle requires its own set of unique options based on its work order, workers need to know which processes should be provided for that vehicle as it enters their station. With a paper-based solution, an order sheet would travel with the vehicle, and workstation operators would have to look at that sheet, then manually access a book in which they could look up the specific processes being requested and ensure that they were appropriate for that specific vehicle and order. This system, which was tested before the plant opened, was extremely labor-intensive, says Lee Murray, TDM's director of technology. The company also considered having workers scan a bar code on each vehicle, he adds, but tests showed that this, too, was inefficient, since it required staff members to stop what they were doing and scan the bar code before determining their next process step.

TDM's Lee Murray
The RFID solution consists of Motorola's FX9500 readers, each with up to four AN200 antennas installed around each of the 40 workstations, as well as several exit points at the end of the assembly lines. The collected read data is managed via Lowry Solutions' WIP manufacturing software. Because the real-time vehicle-tracking system at Ford's Cologne-Niehl plant is utilizing 7iD's RFID middleware, TDM opted to deploy 7iD middleware as well for its own deployment.

First, TDM receives notification of vehicles en route to its plant, along with their respective work orders. As each vehicle arrives, a TDM worker uses a Zebra Technologies R110xi4 RFID printer to print and encode a 4- by 6-inch adhesive Intermec Kimdura RFID label containing an Avery Dennison AD-843 RFID inlay. The label is attached to the car's back windshield, and the system links the tag's unique ID to the vehicle's work order, including instructions, a bill of materials and the vehicle identification number (VIN).

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