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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

As the vehicle enters a workstation, its label's passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID inlay is interrogated, and the work order data is then retrieved from the management software and displayed on a screen at the station. Operators then simply view that order and follow its instructions. "I really don't want the operators thinking about doing non-value-added stuff," Murray says. "I think that's one of the key advantages to RFID—it just happens," since employees can view data without having to look it up manually.

Management then has a record of how long a particular vehicle spends at each station, as well as its exact step along the assembly process at any given moment.

Motorola Solutions' Mark Wheeler
Once a vehicle reaches the end of the assembly line, its RFID tag is again read as the car leaves the plant floor, thereby updating its status in the software. The vehicle is moved through a leak booth to ensure that no breeches were created during the assembly process, and then to an inspection station, where another RFID reader captures the tag ID number as workers verify that all tasks have been properly completed. Once this is done, the car approaches the final read point, located at a barrier gate, where the tag is read once more. If the software confirms that the order is complete, the gate opens to permit exit to the yard outside. After the vehicle has been fully converted into a Police Interceptor unit, TDM can provide Ford Motor Co. with a vehicle receipt, production progress or shipping update.

By using the technology, Murray says, TDM found that it could eliminate five to seven seconds from each workstation process compared with the amount of time required to perform bar-code scans. As a result, he notes, the company has managed to outperform its expected production rates.

In the future, Troy Design and Manufacture hopes to add RFID to its off-line stations as well. For example, vehicles are vinyl-wrapped (an alternative to painting for changing a car body's color and adding graphics) separately from the assembly lines, and operators at those locations scan bar-code labels attached to the vehicles in order to create a record of services provided. By the end of this year, Murray reports, RFID readers are expected to be installed at these locations as well.

Motorola is supplying its RFID readers for a growing number of work-in-progress applications in the automotive, electronics repair and consumer hard goods manufacturing sectors, according to Mark Wheeler, Motorola Solutions' director of industry solutions, to provide WIP tracking and warehouse management in industrial applications. "We're seeing a lot of interest in these kinds of solutions," he says, to improve work-in-progress data accuracy, reduce labor times and increase production output rates.

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