Automating Vehicle Tracking and Management for Automotive OEMs

WhereNet marries vehicle management software, wireless real-time locating system to help process vehicles

WhereNet marries vehicle management software, wireless real-time locating system to help process vehicles

Santa Clara, CA — August 12, 2004 — Wireless tracking specialist WhereNet Corp. this week rolled out a new vehicle tracking and management system designed to automate workflow for automotive manufacturers, distributors and rental car companies.

WhereNet said its new vehicle tracking and management system (VTMS) software, based on the provider's real-time locating system (RTLS) technology, can help companies reduce processing and labor costs, improve quality and expedite delivery of vehicles by one to three days.

"Offline processes are frequently a forgotten segment of lean manufacturing, but new technology solutions are now available to drive efficiency and optimization in this area," said Bill McBeath, chief research officer for ChainLink Research. "Without human intervention, the WhereNet system can automatically record accurate, real-time data about the location of every vehicle as they make their way through the various stages of offline processes. This is a very useful tool: by proactively alerting managers to potential bottlenecks, they can take action to improve the flow and, in the process, reduce order-to-delivery cycle time."

The VTMS application is intended to help automotive manufacturers, distributors and rental car companies to track and optimize the processing of every vehicle, as well as conduct flow analysis for continuous improvement and optimized throughput and quality.

Automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can use VTMS in offline areas to manage post-assembly verification and test processes, as well as quality repair, containment and shipping zones, according to WhereNet. Vehicle processing centers and fleet and rental car operators can use VTMS to increase the velocity of their distribution hubs and improve customer service, the provider said.

The return on investment in the solution, according to WhereNet, will come in the following areas:

  • Reduced on-site dwell time, enabling better yard throughput and increased responsiveness to dealer and customer demands.

  • Reduced labor cost for vehicle processing, as the WhereNet system automates and directs much of the work flow.

  • Higher-quality vehicles as the system ensures that no vehicles with known quality defects get shipped. The system also enhances quality by ensuring that no process steps are missed and that every vehicle departs in accordance with dealer/customer specifications. In addition, since the vehicles are processed in the most efficient manner as a result of intelligent move requests driven by the WhereNet system, they are moved less frequently and therefore are less likely to incur damages during processing procedures.
The system works as follows: When new vehicles roll off the assembly line in a factory or upon arrival at vehicle processing centers, each vehicle is assigned an active RFID WhereTag transmitter that is "married" to the vehicle identification number (VIN).

The WhereTag remains on the vehicle until it has been processed and is ready to ship to its final destination — either directly to a dealership or to a processing center. The WhereNet RTLS architecture includes an array of WhereLAN locating access points that capture and calculate the location of every tagged asset within an accuracy of 10 feet. The local-area network also leverages WherePort devices that trigger the WhereTag to emit a signal when entering or leaving a specific zone, enabling more granular data capture information.

By tracking and automatically recording the arrival, dwell and departure time for each vehicle at every step of the process, the solution generates constant location data as well as a historical record of the vehicle's progress through the offline certification, repair and containment areas. Beyond the obvious ability to locate a unit on demand, the tracking data is also used to monitor such things as adherence to process, process cycle time and dwell time analysis for offline areas.

Typically, a VTMS solution is integrated with a manufacturer's quality management system, introducing the ability to plan, execute and monitor processing within the dynamic offline environment, WhereNet said. The system detects quality-hold vehicles, preventing them from inadvertently slipping into the delivery chain where rework costs at dealerships average more than five times the cost of a factory repair.

WhereNet also said that its system incorporates business rules and system alerts based on customer order status and dwell time. Then a logical hierarchy of rules manages the processing of every vehicle in accordance with its assigned status so that critical orders are processed before lower-priority units. Users cannot deviate from the proper sequence without overriding the system and generating an exception report.

"Although we have delivered tremendous value for the automotive industry for several years, we consider our new VTMS solution as a green-field opportunity to directly impact the distribution chain beyond the factory," said Tom Bacon, vice president of the automotive division for WhereNet.

For more information on the use of RTLS solutions in the supply chain, see "Needle in a Supply Chain Haystack," the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business (now Supply & Demand Chain Executive) magazine.