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Honda UK to Track Components Through the Supply Chain

The manufacturer plans to track 350,000 containers and metal cages with EPC Gen 2 tags, specially made to work in metal-rich environments.
By Beth Bacheldor
Oct 05, 2006Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd. (HUM) has initiated what could be one of the largest UHF RFID installations thus far in the auto industry. HUM produces 885 cars each day, including the popular Honda Civic and CR-V. The company plans to use the technology to track auto components as they traverse HUM's supply chain, moving from suppliers' facilities throughout Europe to HUM's manufacturing plant in Swindon, England.

The auto manufacturer will affix EPC Gen 2 tags to 250,000 containers and 100,000 metal cages used by HUM's suppliers to transport components to the Honda plant, according to Andy Chadbourne, a spokesman for Intellident. The Stockport, U.K.-based RFID vendor is providing HUM the necessary RFID tags and associated software.

The tags are designed to work in environments containing a large amount of metal, each encoded with an EPC-compliant identification number. The ID numbers will be correlated with information about the parts held in HUM's existing IT systems. As containers and metal cages leave HUM's supplier sites, Intellident VisionGate RFID portals and handheld programmable RFID readers will read the tags. That departure information will then be electronically sent to HUM via Intellident Vision software, an RFID-based software system designed to help companies manage and process RFID data written to and collected from RFID tags and smart labels.

When containers and metal cages of supplies arrive at the HUM plant, VisionGate portals at each of the facility's 121 dock doors will scan the tags and pass the arrival data onto HUM's IT systems. The installation of equipment across HUM's supplier and manufacturing sites is already underway.

Other automakers are currently leveraging RFID, as well. In March 2006, ABI Research released a study reporting that the greatest growth potential for automotive RFID lies in improving the auto manufacturing process, vs. other uses such as antitheft protection. ABI noted that Motors and Volkswagen employ Identec Solutions' RFID tags and readers in their manufacturing operations (see Study Looks at RFID's Growing Use in Auto Industry).

In 2005, TNT Logistics North America launched a pilot using active RFID for parts it delivered to a Ford F150 truck-assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich. (see Adding RFID to Ford's Supply Chain). Many automobile companies presently leveraging RFID are using active RFID tags. Some, however, are testing passive tags—which are less expensive—to see how well the technology works in manufacturing environments, where there is a lot of metal that can interfere with the RF waves. In 2004, Airgate Technologies ran a pilot using passive read-write RFID tags operating at 915 MHz at a Dallas-based automotive-component remanufacturer (see Using RFID to Rebuild Auto Parts).
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