Manufacturer Tags Vehicle Seats to Help Meet Safety Regs

May 30, 2007 - Grammer, a German maker of seats for cars, trucks, and off-road vehicles, is using RFID to reduce the time and money required to locate seats and access their respective production information in the event of a vehicle or parts recall.

In a pilot that started in January at Grammer's logistics center in Haselmuehl, near Amberg, the midsize manufacturer is affixing passive RFID tags on 200 to 300 seats per day. By year's end, Grammer-which has about 8,900 employees and reported sales of approximately 881 million ($1.18 billion) in 2006-expects to tag as many as 3,000 seats each day.

Grammer's Thomas Ebert
The seats are designed for tractors, excavators, forklifts and other off-road vehicles built by a variety of vehicle manufacturers. If asked, says Thomas Ebert, head of the company's SAP Customer Competence Center, Grammer needs to be able to tell its customers exactly when each seat-identified by a serial number-was produced. That information would be vital in the event of a recall. Currently, however, Grammer would be able to provide its customers only with a range of seat serial numbers that might be in question-a process that Ebert says can "take days and weeks." Consequently, the company would need to recall a large number of vehicles to be sure no seats were omitted.

Using RFID, Grammer is able to provide customers quick feedback regarding the exact time when seats were built, as well as confirm safety information, such as the angle at which seat belts were affixed to seats, or the amount of force used to attach bolts and screws.

Grammer is using UPM Raflatac's 869 MHz EPC Gen 2 tags, embedded in labels manually applied via adhesive to the plastic packaging wrapped around individual seats ready for shipment. Before a tag is applied, an interrogator from Deister Electronic reads the tag so its unique ID number can be associated with the seat's serial number and production order number in Grammer's SAP back-end software.

These numbers are documented via a camera photographing the production order for the seat on which the numbers are printed. "This," explains Ebert, "allows us to have a data file for each seat in the Auto ID Infrastructure from SAP that includes the tag's unique ID number, the production order number and the seat's serial number."

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