Volvo is using passive RFID technology to track two million cars as they move through the production process at its manufacturing facilities in Belgium and China. The luxury auto maker is using RFID to track the cars it produces from the welding and paint shop to the point of final assembly.
The new solution, which relies on the Corona RFID tag from Confidex, replaces an old solution that utilized active RFID tags and barcode technology that was costly to maintain and often unreliable. The solution will be duplicated at Volvo’s manufacturing facility in Sweden next year. More than 600 RFID readers support the solution in Volvo’s plants.
The UHF RFID tag is permanently mounted on the chassis of the car at the beginning of the manufacturing process. RFID readers capture the car’s progress at various points in the manufacturing process.
The tag is left on the vehicle after production, eliminating the need for collecting, cleaning and testing the used tags. Volvo has been using the Confidex Corona tag since 2008.
After leaving the welding shop, car bodies proceed to the paint line – the most demanding environment for the tags used. On the paint line the car is put through an electrolyte bath for corrosion prevention, followed by several layers of paint and a series of high temperature drying ovens. Under these conditions, it is critical that the RFID tag’s performance does not degrade and that it retains its readability and reliability.
“Automotive production is one of the most challenging applications for RFID not just because of its complexity, but also due to its uncompromising, high reliability requirements,” says Jarkko Miettinen, vice president of Sales at Confidex.
The RFID solution solves several challenges for Volvo. Because consumers typically order several custom options when they purchase a new car, many of the vehicles Volvo manufacturers are effectively unique. Production is further complicated since several different models are typically assembled in the same production line. RFID helps Volvo to manage such a variety during production, as each vehicle is uniquely identified and reliably tracked.
According to European publication RFID im Blick, Volvo has been developing the new solution or more than six years, during which time it has tested more than 50,000 RFID tags in 80 prototypes.