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Tracking Automotive Test Equipment

As part of its research and development program, a midlands-based leading UK car manufacturer sends vehicles filled with instrumentation to all corners of the globe to collect performance data under extreme motoring conditions. They needed to reduce testing down-time caused by instrumentation availability issues and failures, especially prevalent with test probes and leads. Codegate proposed a cost-effective tracking solution using RFID tags and mobile computers, and was duly awarded the contract.

Due to the nature of the vehicle test programmes the instrumentation assets are often away from the central store for months at a time, in areas without cell phone coverage. To keep costs to a minimum the mobile software was batch based, and rugged-cased UHF RFID ‘hard tags’ were provided, suitable for fixing on or off metal surfaces, capable of operating in extreme levels of heat, cold and humidity.

The mobile software was developed to run on a Zebra rugged hand-held terminal (HHT) with integral UHF RFID reader. The first task was to tag all instrumentation and test leads. Only two different tag formats were needed to cover all items. An additional RFID tag was fitted to each test vehicle. Prior to shipping, each vehicle was loaded with test instrumentation. The HHT was then used to inventory-check each vehicle in just a few seconds. From that point the HHTs could be used to audit any vehicle, anytime, anywhere, including on return, to highlight missing or damaged items. This enabled test equipment shortages to be managed more effectively, reducing down time, improving availability and overall asset utilisation.

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