Land Rover is using the WhereNet real-time locating system (RTLS) at its Solihull, UK assembly plant to improve production velocity and throughput, labor productivity, and order-to-cash cycles, says the manufacturer. The Vehicle Tracking and Management System (VTMS) employs active RFID tags to track the Defender, Discovery 3/LR3, Range Rover, and Range Rover Sport vehicles produced at the plant.
"We used to spend a considerable amount of time searching our huge facility to locate vehicles," said Dave O'Reilly, manager, manufacturing and purchasing IT for Land Rover. "Now, the precise location of all new vehicles is always at our fingertips. The information is critical in optimizing production, supporting lean manufacturing, and ensuring that Land Rover delivers the highest-quality vehicles."
Land Rover's implementation of VTMS is an expansion of its use of WhereNet's RTLS technology; in 2002 the automaker installed the WhereNet part replenishment messaging (PRM) system to efficiently request parts on the assembly line in support of consumption-based demand.
Leveraging the same wireless location principles used for the PRM system, Land Rover added the VTMS solution in January 2007 to manage vehicles as they roll off the assembly line. The VTMS provides complete visibility of all finished vehicles regardless of where they are parked-- in buildings or outside. Land Rover can also use the VTMS in off-line areas to manage post-assembly verification and test processes, as well as quality repair, containment, and shipping zones.
The WhereNet system hardware at the Land Rover plant consists of about 4,000 active RFID WhereTag transmitters, which are temporarily attached to new vehicles as they roll off the assembly line; 50 WherePort magnetic "exciters" positioned at key process points to determine the flow of vehicles as they move around the complex; and a local infrastructure of 130 wireless WhereLAN location sensors.
"In addition to expediting the shipping of vehicles on a daily basis, the VTMS technology is extremely beneficial in managing new model launches and model-year upgrades," explained O'Reilly. "Since we typically 'build and hold' such vehicles as part of our quality assurance processes, tracking them down must happen quickly and efficiently. The automated WhereNet system regularly updates (every four minutes) the exact whereabouts of every vehicle on site; and through association of the WhereTag with the vehicle identification number, we have all of the data in a single system to let us optimize work in process."
Land Rover realized a complete return on investment in less than one year.