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How RTLS improves efficiency in the automotive sector

Christian Aadal
Posted by Christian Aadal on Jun 8, 2020 6:27:58 PM

Digitization – the magic word in many industries these days. Especially in the automotive industry. Car manufacturers are constantly looking for solutions to improve their processes. Improvements of these processes include higher efficiency and productivity, more transparency and of course higher profits.

In many areas of the automotive industry digitization has arrived. Modern IT infrastructures, technologies like barcode or RFID seem top of mind. Those technologies made their way into the production, warehouses and logistics, however there are more challenges to be found in the automotive industry. So let's have a closer look into one of these areas: the process of building a pressing tool.

What are the main challenges in tool shops?

The main challenge is to reduce manual processes as much as possible. The ingredients of the processes are machines, material and labour. At the very beginning of the process raw material must be ordered. After having received the shipment the material will be put on stock. This is usually done by using barcodes. Material will be scanned, and the shipment will be added automatically to the stock in the customer´s ERP or Production Management System. If the shipment is complete – fine. If not, a manual process starts including contact to the supplier, checking the material again or even more steps. Having all required material on site the production of a pressing tool can be started. Carrier and material will be put in place and the actual work may start. Well, can the worker be sure that he has the right box of material on site? Does he start his work at the right tool carrier? All this information must be checked manually before starting the building process. At this point of production, only basic information and data on the project status is available in the ERP or Production Management System. Information that could help speed up processes and making them more transparent. After finishing this first task the carrier must be released for the next step and must be moved to another site for final test and approval. The finished pressing tool will then be handed over to serial production. No surprise that these last steps in process are manual ones, too.

How can a combined RFID/RTLS solution help?

A solution, combining RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and RTLS (Real Time Locating System) technology can add many benefits to the customer's process management. The main idea of using wireless technologies is to eliminate manual work. Manual work always has a certain insecurity. Whether a wrong material box has been scanned or the selected tool carrier was not the correct one.

Let's start our tour through the wireless world at the ordering stage. The supplier of the material will be equipped with an RFID/RTLS transponder (or tag) which can communicate wirelessly with other devices and should also have the option to store some data in its internal data storage. Why is it necessary to have a data storage? The idea is that the supplier should store the shipment data on the transponder while preparing the shipment. Each screw, each washer, each metal part. If the shipment contains bigger parts each part can be equipped with a transponder. Once the shipment enters the customer´s site the transponder can be detected by an RFID gate and the data will be sent immediately to the customer’s ERP software. Deficiencies or wrong deliveries can easily be detected, and the appropriate action will be initiated automatically by the ERP software. The material trolleys will then be moved to the tool carrier or will be put on stock. Each trolley still contains the transponder and since the transponder uses active RFID it sends its ID in predefined time intervals. The exact position of the triolley can be determined by using RTLS technology. A clear association of tool carrier and material trolley can be made now. Of course, each movement of carrier and/or trolley will be detected and can be made visible on a Client PC as well as on the Server.

Now, what exactly is RTLS?

There is no unique definition of an RTLS solution. All those solutions use dedicated hardware and software to determine the position of an object in real time in a predefined area usually by analysing the communication between transponder and receiver. Sounds simple but in fact it is a quite complex task. You can find diverse approaches – like different frequencies - to achieve a certain desired accuracy in a given environment. Not all of them are suitable for an Automotive environment. When selecting a solution many topics need to be considered. What might be important? Depending on the environment devices should be rugged and sealed against the elements. The transponder´s battery should have a high battery lifetime and the replacement of the battery should be easy. And if you think about future the solution also should be scalable to be prepared for further extensions.

RTLS - What needs to be considered? 

There is no one-size-fits-all RFID/RTLS solution for automotive tool shops. Each customer has certain requirements for such a solution.

Many factors have to be considered and looked at:

» automation from procurement to production to distribution
» reducing search times for material
» reducing misplacements
» decrease machine idle times
» improve quality, efficiency
» save precious time of workers

But also have a look at these criteria:

» cost
» scalability
» ease of use
» easy to maintain

 

Independent of how the final solution will look like the expectations are quite universal. In a nutshell it is all about achieving higher efficiency and transparency, which should result in faster processes, higher quality, higher transparency and ultimately higher profit.

want to learn more?

Here's our whitepaper on RTLS and what to consider when implementing a real-time location system into a manufacturing environment.

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Topics: Asset Agent, Smart Factory, Solutions