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Defense Contractor Relies on RFID for On-time Delivery of Armored Vehicles

Navistar Defense is using an RFID-enabled real-time locating system to track the assembly process of the armored vehicles it produces, which are designed to protect troops from bombs.
By Beth Bacheldor
In addition, Navistar Defense can review the location data to determine how long vehicles spend in each process. That type of information is currently being used to help the firm improve its processes. "We are looking at, for example, how we can change our paint flow to improve that process," Baldwin says.

According to Baldwin, Navistar Defense no longer requires two employees to walk the premises and manually record each MRAP's location. "Now," he says, "we are able to utilize that manpower in different areas, and that is one savings we can clearly cite."

WhereLAN locating access points comply with IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standards, and can be utilized to create a wireless LAN that works with Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as telephones, laptops and handheld bar-code scanners. By installing the WhereNet system, the company estimates it has saved approximately $40,000 by not needing to install other hardware to communicate with its peripheral buildings.

"Once we did this," says Jim Mady, an assistant program manager with Navistar Defense, "we didn't have to add more access points, and now we can communicate wirelessly with the outlying buildings." The company wanted to be able to communicate with the inspections building, for instance, and it would have cost $20,000 to run phone and network cables to that facility. "WhereNet lets us link to that building and communicate with it wirelessly," Mady says.

Perhaps the greatest benefit, Baldwin notes, is the assurance that vehicles will be delivered on time. "Before we put in WhereNet, we were always worried that we would come to the end of the month and not be able to locate that last truck to meet our end-of-the-month goal—and you don't want to be in trouble with the government," he states. "We kind of laugh, because before WhereNet, we were always running around counting trucks. We wanted to know where they were at all times."

The implementation has sparked interest among Navistar's other subsidiaries as well. "The word is out," Mady says. "Others have heard we have this solution. Our commercial truck subsidiary is looking at how they could utilize something like this."

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