Solution will automate workflow, provide real-time visibility, reduce inventory and prevent business interruption in Automotive Supply Chain

TNT Logistics has launched an initiative to develop the use of RFID technology as part of its logistics solution offered to automotive manufacturers. Eventually this initiative, based on several pilots, will lead to industry solutions for all parts of the automotive supply chain.

“Our goal is to contribute to the success of our customers by embracing new technology and developing innovative, value-added services,” said Terry McIntyre, corporate technology services manager, TNT Logistics North America. “There are no industry-based RFID automotive mandates today like in retail with Wal-Mart. While the auto industry has been using RFID successfully in production processes for some time, the use of it elsewhere in the supply chain has been slow in coming. That is until now.”

How the RFID initiative works

The RFID initiative at the Material Sequencing Center (MSC) operated by TNT Logistics for Ford Motor Company supports Ford’s Dearborn truck assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich. The MSC delivers small lot, sequencing and metered parts to line-side at the plant. Prior to the initiative’s outset, the operation was experiencing a series of disconnected electronic and manual processes. The opportunity for business interruption ’ including late deliveries, part shortages, misplaced or lost parts ’ was always present.

As part of the Ford/TNT initiative, RFID tags and a network of wireless locating sensors, supplied by WhereNet Corp., were set up to provide real-time location and status information for thousands of mobile racks shared between the plant and TNT’s facility. Devices located at dock doors at the MSC trigger the RFID tag to emit a signal when a rack full of parts is loaded onto a truck bound for the plant. Through this automatic data collection process, utilizing TIBCO software solutions, the system confirms the load has been built, and validates that it is in ready-to-ship status. The system can even trigger an advanced shipping notice so that the factory knows what material is en route.

Additional steps in the initiative include automated gate arrival, load and unload rack validation, rack traceability and real-time location system (RTLS) alerts to improve communications between the MSC and the assembly plant. These business events will be fulfilled using TIBCO complex event processing and real-time visibility software to help prevent interruptions and manual interventions in the automotive supply chain.

When fully executed, the RFID initiative will provide real-time visibility and a synchronized assembly process to deliver an uninterrupted flow of parts from the material sequencing center to line side at the truck plant. Additionally, the solution will help to automate workflow, reduce inventory and prevent business interruption in the assembly process. In the case of Ford, it will have an active integrated RFID solution that can be deployed around the world at more than 50 manufacturing sites to leverage the capital investment it has made in the WhereNet infrastructure.

“We are excited to add TNT Logistics to our growing ecosystem of automotive supply chain customers that are using our active-RFID based solutions on a daily basis to optimize inbound logistics in support of synchronous material flow,” said Gary Latham, director of industry marketing for WhereNet. “As we expand and continue to add more customer nodes on the network, the value of the network increases as does the collaboration between all supply chain partners who collectively enable more lean, flexible processes.”