Automatic scanning using RFID technology is being introduced to offer more transparency in motor vehicle manufacturers’ supply chains and manufacturing operations. Such RFID systems consist of RFID tags on parts and a scanner that reads out information optically. Put simply, digitization in motor vehicle manufacturing frees employees from manual scanning reduces time and labour.
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg are affixing RFID tags to every single safety-critical part. In a first step, the researchers analysed which of the numerous vehicle parts are best suited for this and identified as many as 40 parts. For the start, the experts focused on mirrors and seats for further developments.
“Radio frequency identification or RFID tags on parts can boost process reliability and efficiency significantly,” says Marc Kujath, a research scientist at the Fraunhofer IFF. “We have demonstrated this in feasibility studies and wireless tests conducted jointly with Mercedes-Benz Vans at their factory in Ludwigsfelde near Berlin.”
Much like a barcode, a serial number is stored on the tags, the major difference being that, whereas barcode merely stores information identifying the type of component, the number on an RFID tag delivers abundant information, such as the vehicle in which the component is to be installed. Whereas barcodes have to be read manually with a handheld scanner one by one, RFID tags can all be read automatically and optically at the same time by one scanner – even when the parts have been installed. This means that information can be retrieved from RFID tags in seconds at any given time. For instance, the installation of all the requisite parts can be verified while a front or rear axle is being mounted. Previously, this was not checked until final inspection – by employees conducting visual inspections and using paper lists.