As part of a continuous improvement initiative at its 4-million-square-foot assembly plant in Canton, Miss., Nissan North America Inc. is deploying the standards-based WhereNet active RFID real-time locating system (RTLS) technology to help automate its inbound supply chain and outbound delivery chain.
"As one of the most efficient vehicle manufacturers in North America -- according to the 2006 Harbour Report -- Nissan is setting the standard for manufacturing by embracing new technologies like WhereNet to continuously improve processes," said Tom Bacon, vice president of the automotive division for Santa Clara, Calif. -based WhereNet.
When new vehicles roll off the Nissan assembly line, each vehicle is assigned an active RFID transmitter that is "married" to the vehicle identification number (VIN). The tag remains on the vehicle until it has been processed and is ready to ship to its final destination. Nissan uses the WhereNet VTMS in off-line areas to manage post-assembly verification and test processes, as well as quality repair, containment and shipping zones. The system includes a logical hierarchy of rules that manages the processing of every vehicle in accordance with its assigned status so that critical orders are processed before lower-priority units.
Nissan's Canton assembly plant has the capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles per year, including the Altima sedan, Armada full-size sport utility vehicle, Infiniti QX56 full-size sport utility vehicle, Quest minivan and Titan full-size pickup truck.
Nissan will also deploy an automated gate check-in/out solution known as Fast Gate that supports 24/7 sequenced parts deliveries from Nissan suppliers. Fast Gate senses when a truck is approaching the gate; cross-references detailed information about the truck in a database; and, if authorized, automatically opens the gate to grant entry. Then, based on business rules loaded into the yard management application, the system instructs drivers and yard personnel to deliver the inbound load to the appropriate dock door for just-in-time sequencing of parts based on the assembly line build plan for that work shift.
By automating the check-in/out procedures for the hundreds of daily truckloads and thousands of components arriving at the assembly facility every day, the system saves Nissan several hours a day processing deliveries, provides higher velocity and throughput in the yard, and increases flexibility in manufacturing through better utilization of equipment, facilities and labor.
Expected benefits from the overall RFID-enabled solution include reduced labor costs for vehicle processing, reduced on-site dwell time for parts and vehicles and better yard throughput. The system also immediately detects vehicles that may have quality issues, 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.
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