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ZF Friedrichshafen Shifts to RFID-Guided Production

The German maker of automotive components attaches EPC Gen 2 tags to the housing of each eight-speed transmission it assembles, thus enabling the company to better manage its manufacturing process.
By Rhea Wessel
The system was implemented in early 2009 and reached mass production by September. ZF expects to manufacture 100,000 to 200,000 transmissions each year using the RFID-controlled production line.

The main benefits of the system, Kusper says, are reliable, low-cost and unique identification of gearboxes, as well as the ability to control production with data saved on the tags.


ZF's Gerhard Schaller
"ZF is using RFID to reduce interface complexity in its production," Kusper states. "The RFID tags help to connect production machines to each other."

The system is based on middleware called You-R OPEN, provided by RF-IT Solutions, located in Graz, Austria. ZF already utilizes the software for another application, and can administer it centrally. The software's Control Logic function integrates Siemens' RF 660 readers into the system. ZF also uses a limited number of Psion Teklogix Workabout Pro handheld interrogators for ad-hoc readings of gearbox tags.

ZF expects to use the tagged gearboxes as the basis for further RFID applications, for itself or for its partners. It could utilize the tags in its own logistics processes, for instance, or automakers could read the tags during their vehicle-assembly processes. Furthermore, auto repair shops could employ the tags to identify the transmissions, and to store maintenance and inspection data on them.

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