IT managers from Ford's US and European manufacturing businesses met last week to co-ordinate their RFID projects.
The meeting was set up to enable Ford America, Ford Europe, Jaguar and Land Rover to benefit fully from the lessons learned in RFID trials in different countries.
Ford America's group practice manager for information technology, David Decker, said, "We are trying to co-ordinate our RFID trials better. We want to learn what has worked and what has not worked."
Decker identified an RFID project at its German assembly plant in Cologne as an example of a deployment that other parts of the company should know about.
"At Cologne, they have tags on all the vehicles and physical gates at the end of the assembly line. The gate will not open until the tags all check out," said Decker.
Last week's meeting highlighted the fact that RFID suppliers have been selling directly to different parts of the company, rather than through a global sourcing arrangement.
Ovum senior analyst Alys Woodward said the picture of disparate RFID trials at Ford was common among multinationals that are experimenting with the technology.
"I would say Ford is the first to co-ordinate all of its RFID projects around the world," she said.
The motor manufacturer mostly uses passive tags with short read distances because the temperatures and dirt in its factories prevent more advanced, active tags from working.
Ford uses RFID to streamline US truck production
Ford is working with TNT Logistics to use RFID technology to streamline the production of the motor manufacturer's T150 truck in the US.
TNT is supporting real-time production at the facility using RFID, location-based sensors and a wireless network.
The system picks up the position of racks of components, such as engines and fuel tanks, as they are moved from the TNT depot to one of four drop-off points on the production line. The plant is sent an electronic message, giving it advance notice that parts are en route.
Data transmitted by RFID tokens once every four minutes is passed over the wireless network to a Tibco software message backbone, which converts the data into XML.
Using XML management tools provided by Tibco, TNT is able to analyse trends and automate workflow by linking into its Manhattan Associates warehouse management system. The tagging allows TNT to provide a lot of raw data.
Terry McIntyre, who led the Ford project at TNT, said, "The system can look for bottlenecks to find out how more parts can move through the building. For instance, I can tell Ford I have an excess of parts in my facility that has not been moved in 30 days." Ford can then redeploy the parts at another site to save money.