Besides his responsibility for the RFID strategy at Volkswagen, Schmidt is also the President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA e.V.). In recent years, the VDA has promoted uniform standards for RFID communication - now, there are clear recommendations. They are essential if suppliers and automotive manufacturers are to establish a seamlessly traceable supply chain.
Tracing along the entire process chain
VW itself uses the radio labels in three applications: to trace vehicles, reusable containers, and prototype parts. All of the components involved are equipped with a transponder. From manufacturing to sales, right up to the end customer, they can be identified at all times. When a customer drives into the workshop, their car RFID transponder, which is associated with their personal details, could simply be scanned. "The workshop could then automatically welcome the customer by name and prepare the coffee just how they like it." RFID for Service 4.0?
Component containers are tracked from incoming goods to warehousing to production, while RFID gates and hand-held scanners make it easy to trace all parts. This is particularly demanding when developing prototypes: Today, over 4,000 experimental vehicles at Volkswagen are equipped with transponders. As the cars need to be modified all the time, the individual parts are constantly in motion as they pass through various departments and employees. VW can now check which part is in which vehicle at any given time.
To ensure that the RFID supply chain works, the suppliers themselves need to be brought on board. Thanks to the standards available now, 235 VW suppliers are already involved and fit RFID transponders to their products. Volkswagen provides the software for this free of charge and plans to increase the figure to 400 suppliers by the end of 2016. Then, says Schmidt, RFID will also be established as a standard outside the VW environment.