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Auto Maker Speeds Processes via RFID

MSM Solutions' replenishment system is providing an automotive factory with UHF RFID-based data regarding the parts moving onto the assembly floor and empty racks returning from the floor, thereby ensuring the manufacturing system has just-in-time access to those parts.
By Claire Swedberg

Several 60-inch monitors, mounted throughout the facility, display a dashboard of the inventory count so that individuals can watch the numbers. In the warehouse, for instance, workers who pick the parts for delivery to the assembly floor watch the monitors for status updates. Items that need to be replenished are listed there; the parts still available for use on the assembly floor appear in green, while those highlighted in red indicate replenishment is mission-critical.

The software also provides historical data that can help the company to improve its operations. For instance, it indicates how often components are used, based on the movement of racks, so that the firm can better understand which parts are used less or more frequently.

"The solution has enabled them to identify problems in their processes," Wilkerson states. For instance, the company discovered that some components were being delivered to the assembly site outside of the expected channel, so there was no record of those items being received in assembly. The firm is now testing a supplier-based system to track totes that transport components between suppliers and the manufacturing facility.

Select tote suppliers for the auto maker are now beginning to tag their products. MSM Solutions is printing and encoding tags as the manufacturer orders them, and the supplier affixes the tags to the totes. The auto manufacturer will then be able to read those tags as the totes arrive filled with components from suppliers, and as they leave the facility empty.

For this project, the PortalTrack software will manage the printing, encoding, reading and analytics for an estimated 500,000 supplier totes that will be read at the automotive manufacturer's receiving dock doors. Each tote is dedicated to a specific component, so that when a given part tag ID is red, the system will know which product is in the tote.

PortalTrack with customizable software has been available for 15 years, Wilkerson says, and has come with RFID technology since 2005. These days, he adds, the technology manages millions of transactions daily.

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