How the battle for accuracy was won with indoor tracking

When your warehousing and production don’t sit in the same hall and there is a 10-minute drive between the two of them, it’s fair to say that you are going to encounter more than your fair share of disconnect between the two locations.

But when this disconnect is causing extended lead times and increased labour costs, then you’re going to start feeling it where it hurts – right in the wallet!

SEG Automotive, one of the mainstays in the history of the automobile industry with a heavy focus on reducing emissions, were certainly feeling the pinch. As a company that prides itself on over a century of innovations, such as the invention of the starter motor and mild-hybridization, they were quick to look for a solution to this optimization bottleneck. They knew that if they wanted to maximize the efficiency of the production line and warehousing, what they needed was indoor tracking that could afford them pinpoint accuracy. Thus began their quest…

The Burden of Responsibility

When most of the world’s original equipment manufacturers rely on your global network of product distribution, you’re under a lot of pressure to ensure that this valuable customer loyalty is not misplaced. This means producing products that are consistently durable, competitive and deliver high performance. To deliver this, SEG Automotive relies on their global strength coming for over 8,000 employees in 14 countries painstakingly located where the world’s most important automotive markets are.

Weak Spots Needing Attention

The scene is already set. With the warehousing and production separated by a 10-minute truck ride and using a manual booking process for batch assets, this proved to be a manpower-costly system prone to human error. In production, ensuring you get the right assets delivered from the warehouse at the right amount, in the right order at the right time relies on an optimized booking system that can run like digital clockwork. However, this was not the case.

SEG Automotive had already identified that there were many cases when some assets had not been booked out despite already having left the warehouse and vice-versa. This was extending the lead time and making the just-in-time process flawed. They needed to reduce or delegate manpower to another workload away from the current routine and error-prone booking process and free up the logistics managers. This would only be possible by enabling asset tracking by making the processes fully visible and transparent. And to do this, they needed to replace the manual process with an automated, errorless and fully digital, real-time asset booking and tracking system.

The Clash of the Indoor-Tracking Titans

Because having the highest attention to detail means manpower saved and errors reduced or eliminated, making sure you have the right technology is crucial. Two tracking titans entered the ring: one was Sewio ultra-wideband-powered RTLS (real-time location system) and the other active RFID (radio frequency identification). The contest? To identify with 30-cm accuracy the position of the tracked item at the correct gate.

Round one: RFID starts off well with 95% correctness of booking signals over three weeks but Sewio RTLS knocks them out of the ring with 100% of bookings made correctly in the same period.

Round two: In the same testing period, RFID gets off to a sluggish start with the vibrations of nearby machinery and forklifts causing the readers to need recalibrating, costing two working days, addition maintenance costs and system downtime. Sewio RTLS suffers no downtime and continues to deliver unparalleled accuracy.

With a clear winner, the next challenge was to ensure the flawless cooperation between SAP, Voice Picking, the printing solution and Sewio RTLS. Using a robust communication system, data transmission was now available at any point of the facility using a bespoke created software interface to convert that data into the appropriate format for each part of the system.

Active Trumps Passive

As it was necessary for full track-and-trace and real-time process visibility, 40 anchors were implemented into the ceilings with Sewio tags deployed on 600 galvanized stacking pallets. And why do active RTLS tags trump passive RFID ones? Because only they show you the actual presence of the asset and its full tracking, including the trajectory, and both its real-time and historical data.

And to ensure long battery life as the tags are not powered by the transports’ battery, a higher capacity coin battery, with a guaranteed 1.5-year lifetime at a 0.5-second refresh rate, was used.

Please Read Out the Results

IBCS Hungary has been delivering the project and by integrating Sewio RTLS with the current automated booking in/out process, 15% of employees over three shifts could be redeployed to other work. False or forgotten bookings were eliminated and actionable data insights were now possible in real-time. The results? Lead time was squashed from six to three hours, that’s an impressive 50%!

The future for SEG Automotive is clear. Now that Sewio RTLS has proven itself, it will be rolled out into their other halls and facilities, including the production hall. This is not all, because of its scalability and flexibility, it will also cover additional use cases such as real-time route modification, root optimization, congestion avoidance, improved safety using the speed limit check, improving Pick by Voice by Pick by Position and the overall improvement of production efficiency through digital twin technology. And as the results have already spoken for themselves, it comes as no surprise that a company that has embraced innovation throughout its long history will continue to leverage the benefits that RTLS provides.

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