Finding One Vehicle in a Lot of Thousands
Imagine trying to locate one car in a vast lot filled with 2,000 to 3,000 nearly identical vehicles, and you can understand the impetus behind the need for Zebra’s VTMS. This application provides constant visibility and management of vehicles from final assembly to shipping, making it easy to instantly locate specific vehicles to fulfill dealers’ custom orders or to identify any automobiles on hold for quality control.
Tracking Raw Materials
While Ford’s Van Dyke plant has adopted lean manufacturing principles, parts often end up being stored until needed at the line. RTLS tracks each item during its time in the plant so that personnel can always locate them quickly. Containers can be permanently affixed with a wireless Wheretag, each with a barcode that is associated with the product ID of the item. Every four minutes, the tag transmits its location to continually update the warehouse management system on its location. The tags can remain on the container even after leaving the facility, as they have a battery life expectancy of seven years.
When transmissions are shipped to the Wayne Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., another Zebra RTLS picks up the tag transmissions there and begins tracking as the racks reach the docks.
Automating Parts Replenishments
RTLS also makes it easy for line workers at the plant to request fresh supplies of materials. Most major automakers have adopted the paper card-based Japanese Kanban system for bringing parts to the assembly line.
Ford now places WhereCall devices at assembly stations. When supply of a specific part reaches a pre-determined replenishment level, the line worker presses the WhereCall button that sends a signal to re-stock that particular part so that the line will never run out of parts. This process eliminates the need for replenishment workers to travel routes to pick up Kanban cards and eliminates some lag time from the process, further minimizing line-side inventories.
Saving Millions over Hardwired Systems
The wireless nature of the system offers tremendous flexibility and helps assure that the line is reliably stocked with materials as needed. Ford has achieved impressive results through its use of the technology:
- More efficient use of labor
- Implementation cost savings of approximately $200,000 to $500,000 per facility over hardwired systems
- Fast installation with a call system coming online in a matter of weeks
- Proven reliability with performance approaching Six Sigma ratings