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Land Rover Finds ROI in Tracking New Cars

At its plant in Solihull, England, the manufacturer says it is cutting costs by using an RFID system from WhereNet to monitor vehicles in its yard after production.
By Claire Swedberg
WhereNet battery-powered RFID tags operate at 2.4 GHz and comply with the ISO 24730 standard for real-time locating systems. During assembly, if an operator notices the quantity of a specific part dwindling, he or she presses a WhereCall button on an active RFID tag on the assembly line. That button transmits its ID number, correlated to the specific part requiring replenishment. According to Latham, a WhereNet receiver—the WhereLAN Location Sensor (LOS)—installed on the facility ceiling captures that ID number and sends it wirelessly to a central receiver, the Locating Access Point (LAP), cabled to a PC. WhereNet software running on the PC then alerts warehouse staff regarding which particular part needs to be replenished, and where.

Pleased with how its parts replenishment system works, Latham says, the company saw an additional way in which it could use WhereNet's technology. "Land Rover had already made an investment in parts replenishment, and then they had another problem with tracking vehicles," he explains. "In this way, they were able to use the existing [WhereNet] infrastructure and add outdoor antennas."

Gary Latham
With the VTMS system, Latham says, Land Rover has added another layer of RFID tracking: When a vehicle has completed assembly, a WhereNet tag is hung from the rearview mirror or attached to the vehicle's interior door handle. The tag's unique ID number is linked to the vehicle's VIN in Land Rover's back-end MS SQL system. The active tag beacons every four minutes as the vehicle leaves the assembly line and moves first to testing, then to repair or to the 308-acre yard, where it passes through several portals. At that time, a WherePort exciter instructs the tag to beacon immediately (instead of once every four minutes), ensuring that the WhereLAN Location Sensors will capture its movement from one area to another.

In all other locations at the plant, however, the tags transmit their signals every four minutes, detectable by WhereLAN Location Sensors up to 500 feet away. The system provides the company with the vehicles' real-time location based on the time difference of transmission arrival to multiple receivers. WhereNet's Visibility Server software enables Land Rover to view a vehicle's location on a graphical map within a parking slot space of about 9 feet.

During the launching of new vehicle models, the company builds up several weeks' worth of inventory prior to shipment. At such times, the tracking of vehicle quality (whether it needs additional work) and location becomes even more difficult due to the high volume of vehicles.

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