Getrag Ford Uses Wireless to Automate Parts Replenishment

Technology to assist in company's lean initiative

One of the larger manufacturers of automotive transmissions, GETRAG FORD Transmissions, recently announced the use of a Material Flow-Replenishment System, from WhereNet Corp., a Zebra Technologies company, at its two-million square foot assembly plant in Cologne, Germany.

The Cologne factory produces more than one million transmissions annually for automotive manufacturers in Argentina, China, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, the Philippines and the U.S.

The solution combines business intelligence with real-time location and consumption-based demand data. It tracks the exact time of every part request, automatically prioritizes the requests, and sends instructions to material handling drivers -- whose vehicles are equipped with vehicle-mounted Wi-Fi terminals -- telling them where to pick up and deliver the parts. The system promptly alerts both the manufacturer and suppliers when parts are needed on the assembly line, resulting in a synchronous material flow across the supply chain, reduced inventory and higher productivity.

"The WhereNet material flow system moves us a long way toward our ultimate goal of a completely forklift-less production operation, as we are now operating leaner than ever before," said Ralf Vierkotten, Supervisor, Logistics and Material Handling, GETRAG FORD Transmissions. "Production-line employees no longer need to leave their workstation to help search for parts or to help material control determine the correct part; all they have to do is push a WhereCall active RFID button, and the system notifies all the required parties -- from the line side to the forklift driver to the internal warehouse -- that more parts are needed. This 'intelligent' automated system supports our lean manufacturing processes as we benefit from real-time inventory consumption and can execute replenishment orders just in time."

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