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Daimler Sees Potential Benefits of Using RFID to Track Quality-Control

Having completed several successful test deployments, the carmaker is now in the process of installing RTLS hardware and passive EPC tags across one of its plant's quality-assurance areas.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Given all of these movements, tracking the finished vehicles manually through the quality-assessment and -assurance zones can be a time-consuming and costly exercise. One of Daimler's main goals in deploying automated technology to track the cars, therefore, has been to reduce search times, as well as the associated labor costs and business-process delays. The company also wants to reduce the amount of time that administrators spend monitoring the quality-assurance area. Currently, administrators must walk through each evaluation zone in order to ensure that the testing processes are running smoothly and according to schedule. In the future, they will be able to do so via an electronic map of the tagged cars.

At RFID Journal's 10th annual RFID Journal LIVE! conference, held last week in Orlando, Fla., BIBA research scientist Dirk Werthmann described some results from an ambitious, multi-stakeholder project to measure the efficacy of using RFID-based automation technologies during the production, quality-control and logistics processes of automobile manufacturing.

BIBA research scientist Dirk Werthmann
"Once a car moves by its own engine, you need to be able to track it very well—otherwise, you can lose track of it," explained Werthmann, who supported the use-case testing by working directly with Daimler's RAN project team. BIBA supports all RAN projects, he said, by lending research and pilot-testing support.

To perform an initial proof-of-concept test, BIBA provided Mojix hardware. A Mojix STAR reader was wired to four Mojix eNodes connected to 16 antennas. Each eNode supported four antennas, with a single antenna mounted above each of 16 workstations. To test the Mojix solution, BIBA worked with Daimler and IBM to evaluate 12 models of UHF passive RFID inlays, using the Mojix reader infrastructure.

According to Werthmann, Daimler had a number of criteria for selecting the RFID technology, which it tested on finished S-Class vehicles within the quality-assurance zone of its manufacturing facility in Sindelfingen, a district of Stuttgart, Germany. The system needed to be able to discriminate between tags located 3 meters (9.8 feet) or less apart from each other, so that the company can discern between cars in adjacent workstations. The tags, as well as the Mojix readers, also had to be able to reliably function despite the metal-rich environment (which can cause RF interference).

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