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Honda Next Automaker to Get On Track with RFID

A Honda UK manufacturing facility is spearheading what solution provider Intellident calls the automotive industry's largest RFID tracking application of its kind in the world. Honda of the UK Manufacturing (HUM) is applying EPCglobal Gen2-standard RFID tags to 350,000 reusable logistics containers.
Sep 29, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 29, 2006—As market research firm Frost & Sullivan was releasing an assessment of the European automotive market for RFID technology that concluded "the unique features of RFID technology enable the development of a constant stream of innovative applications for manufacturing sectors," Intellident was announcing a new tracking system at Honda in the UK that provides an excellent example. Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd. (HUM) plans to apply permanent, EPCglobal Gen2-compliant tags to 350,000 reusable containers. Intellident is also installing RFID readers at Honda and many of its suppliers in the UK and in continental Europe as part of an end-to-end logistics asset tracking program.

Intellident, a UK RFID manufacturer and integrator, claims the application is the automotive industry's first mass tracking application of its kind in the world. Honda plans to use RFID to track each of the 100,000 metal racks (stillages) and 250,000 plastic containers it uses to exchange parts and assemblies with suppliers. Intellident spokesperson Andy Chadbourne told RFID Update implementation is underway now at Honda and supplier facilities, but would not say how many facilities will be equipped. The system is being used for suppliers who provide parts and components for the Honda Civic, according to Chadbourne.

An RFID tag will be permanently applied to each container and pallet and encoded with an EPC number for unique identification. Honda is using a tag specially designed by Intellident for high-speed, high-volume asset tracking in automotive industry processes, where metal equipment and storage racks are common. Metal has traditionally created interference problems for Gen2 and other UHF technologies, but Intellident has joined several other vendors in announcing tags that have been optimized for metal environments.

Honda currently tracks its logistics assets by manually scanning bar codes, "which is a very slow and inefficient process," said Chadbourne.

Intellident's VisionGate RFID portals, handheld readers and Vision software are being installed at Honda supplier locations, and the portals are also being installed at 121 dock doors at Honda's manufacturing facility in Swindon, UK. Shipments leaving supplier locations will be pushed through the portals to automatically identify the contents and generate a manifest, which will be communicated electronically to Honda. Upon arrival at Honda's facility in Swindon, containers will be automatically identified and matched to a record in the receiving system to direct putaway. The application will also build an accurate record of who holds logistics assets and how many are available at each location.

Analyst and research firm Aberdeen Group has advocated the use of RFID for logistics asset tracking for several years. An Aberdeen summary released in July stated that a significant number of companies report they lose at least ten percent of their totes, pallets and shipping containers, calling it a multimillion dollar problem.

"The rising need to accurately track valuable assets and products is creating significant scope for the use of RFID across a range of industrial sectors," Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Rengajaran Srinivasan said in an announcement earlier this week predicting robust RFID growth in European automotive, aerospace and industrial manufacturing markets. Days earlier, car maker Jaguar had announced it would use active RFID technology to track ocean-bound parts shipments from the UK to the US (see Jaguar Signs on as Savi Extends RFID Network to UK).

Despite these developments, Kevin Reale of AMR Research painted a less optimistic picture for the automotive market in an RFID Update article last week (see RFID Continues to Take Back Seat in Automotive).

Read the announcement from Intellident
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