WhereNet covers 5-million+ sq. ft. facility

WhereNet Corp. announced that Ford Motor Company of Canada is deploying the standards-based WhereNet’ active radio frequency identification (RFID), real-time locating system (RTLS) technology at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Complex (OAC) in Ontario, Canada. By expediting delivery of just-in-time parts 24x7, the WhereNet automated ‘Fast Gate’ check in/out solution will dramatically improve the efficiency of OAC’s freight and inventory management system.

Since 2000, Ford has deployed WhereNet wireless location systems at more than 50 facilities around the world. Covering the entire 5.4 million square foot OAC facility, the WhereNet implementation will be the largest RTLS-powered yard management system for an automotive manufacturer in the world.

The WhereNet deployment is part of a transformation of the Oakville complex to flexible manufacturing, allowing for quick responses to market demand without the lengthy and expensive retooling process required of traditional model changeovers. Currently, OAC builds the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans; this fall, the plant will begin production of the 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover utility vehicles.

With flexible manufacturing, inbound parts shipments from suppliers are smaller and more frequent ’ in OAC’s case, involving hundreds of daily truckloads of thousands of components in sequence. By automating the check-in/out procedures, the WhereNet system saves Ford several hours a day processing deliveries and increases efficiency in the supply chain.

Wireless ‘Cloud’ Provides Real-Time Visibility and Status Information

The WhereNet Fast Gate system puts a ‘wireless cloud’ over the entire Oakville complex, with active RFID WhereTag’ transmitters permanently fixed to trailers belonging to Ford’s dedicated suppliers (and temporarily fixed to others); 14 WherePort’ magnetic ‘exciters’ positioned at each gate; and a local infrastructure of 68 wireless WhereLAN’ locating access points spread throughout the complex. When a truck approaches a gate, the WhereNet Fast Gate system senses the WhereTag, cross-references detailed information about the truck in a database, and automatically opens the gate to grant entry if the truck and its load are authorized.

The driver then drops the trailer load at any one of 177 receiving dock doors and departs via a similar automated checkout procedure, without ever having to leave the cab. Meanwhile, the WhereNet system captures the location of each trailer and precise information about its cargo and wirelessly transmits that information to a database, allowing Ford personnel instant access to this critical information. For example, forklift drivers can learn where to pick up requested parts by accessing information on mobile devices supported by the WhereNet Wi-Fi infrastructure and then deliver sequenced components to the final assembly area at the precise moment they are needed.

‘The WhereNet system gives Ford the agility to manage its inbound supply chain on a minute-by-minute basis to support flexible manufacturing processes and rapidly adjust to shifting market demands,’ explained Tom Bacon, vice president of WhereNet’s automotive division. ‘Our active RFID rules-based yard management system allows Ford to efficiently track the movement of about 1,000 trucks a day, ensuring that each of the 2,000 parts needed to build every vehicle is delivered to the assembly line at the precise moment it’s needed.’