automobile assembly line

RFID for Automotive: The 8 Biggest Asset Tracking Trends

RFID is drastically improving the way automotive manufacturers and suppliers track and manage assets, from an individual part in a warehouse to a finished vehicle off the production line. In this post, we look at the eight biggest automotive RFID application trends happening right now.  

According to NAPA Auto Parts, the average combustion engine automobile is estimated to have close to 30,000 parts. Electric vehicles are believed to have about half that many.

It’s a substantial number of bits and pieces, and accounting for them is a big job.

Fortunately, for the most critical components, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is helping automotive firms keep up. From supplier warehouses to the production line to distribution and delivery, RFID is facilitating far greater automation, visibility and traceability across a range of different applications. 

But first let’s define what RFID asset tracking means in this context.

What Is RFID Asset Tracking?

RFID asset tracking refers to the use of RFID technology to monitor and manage assets efficiently. It involves attaching RFID tags to items, such as equipment, inventory or vehicles, and using RFID readers and software to capture and transmit data about the assets. RFID tags come in two basic types: passive RFID and active RFID. Most applications rely on passive tags which emit a unique identifier when activated by a reader's radio waves, allowing for real-time tracking and identification of each asset.

How Is RFID Asset Tracking Changing the Automotive Industry?

Implementing RFID asset tracking systems is helping automotive manufacturers and suppliers make serious strides and gain valuable insights in all sorts of areas, leading to increased operational efficiency and cost savings.

Some of the biggest benefits include:

  • Automated data collection
  • Reduced manual errors
  • Optimized resource utilization
  • Streamlined inventory management
  • Improved asset visibility
  • Enhanced safety and security
  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Reduced operational costs

Top 8 Automotive Asset Tracking Application Trends

The business case for RFID is clear-cut. But how is it being deployed in the real world for the automotive industry? How are assets being integrated with RFID technology such as tags and readers? Where is the impact being felt the most, from the supply chain to the production plant?

Let’s jump into the biggest trends in automotive asset tracking applications.

1. Tracking Individual Parts

As cars continue to get more complex, with an increasing number of parts, traditional methods for tracking those parts are getting left behind. With RFID, suppliers can affix or embed a tag to individual parts like batteries, airbags, antipollution systems, tires and more, and use RFID readers and software to capture data throughout the part’s lifespan. They can then use this data to better understand and optimize the internal business process around asset tracking. It can also support customer safety by providing superior traceability for faulty parts.

2. RTIs & Container Tracking

Returnable transport items (RTIs) encompass a wide range of bulk carrying products, including pallets, roll cages, returnable plastic containers, tote boxes, ingredient bins, dollies, IBCs, gas cylinders and kegs. While RTIs play a crucial role in modern shipping and consumer goods industries, they often face supply chain challenges, operational inefficiencies, billing errors, compliance regulations and increasing management costs.

RFID can provide enhanced economic visibility into the location of RTIs and the assets they transport. By leveraging RFID, automotive manufacturers and suppliers can more effectively manage, trace, track and audit their RTIs throughout their global journey, resulting in improved operational efficiency and better supply chain management.

person in warehouse holding tablet

From suppliers to manufacturers to consumers, the automotive supply chain can be digitally optimized through the power of RFID technology.

3. Transport Units With Smart Labels  

RFID can be used to transport units between supplier dispatch and customer reception by using smart labels (paper labels with an RFID inlay). Using a handheld RFID reader, suppliers can conduct a quick final check after a truck is loaded to confirm a given transport unit is inside, and customers can do the same upon reception.

4. Plant Work Orders

RFID streamlines tracking internal orders and any work in process within an automotive manufacturing plant. The tag readings are interfaced with manufacturing execution and enterprise resource planning (MES/ERP) systems to provide automatic updates of production quantities and internal flows.

Tracking work orders within a plant is crucial because it:

  • Enables real-time visibility
  • Improves internal efficiency
  • Enhances traceability
  • Improves quality control
  • Maintains compliance and audibility

5. Material Handling Equipment

Both motorized and non-motorized material handling equipment can provide workers with activity data, or data regarding the assets that they are part of. RFID, alongside real-time location systems (RTLS), can track this equipment across multiple platforms and throughout a plant.

The data collected can be analyzed to gain insights into equipment utilization patterns, identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in material handling processes, and make informed decisions for process optimization and resource allocation. This data-driven approach helps improve productivity, reduce waste and enhance overall operational performance.

6. Finished Vehicles  

Companies can use RFID to track finished vehicles as they move on to their destination. This option can be used to associate important data with each vehicle, such as manufacturing details, inspection records and maintenance history. This facilitates quality control measures and enables suppliers to quickly identify and address any quality issues or defects. That said, some countries abide by privacy policies that may require RFID tag removal or deactivation before a car is delivered to the end customer.

7. Fleet Vehicle Tracking

Fleet management firms are increasingly using RFID to track and manage fleet vehicles. The technology is helping managers better monitor the location, movement and status of vehicles, providing valuable insights for optimizing routes, scheduling maintenance and managing fuel consumption. There are security benefits as well, as RFID enables quick identification and authentication of authorized vehicles, reducing the risk of theft or unauthorized access.

8. Automating Fuel Management

RFID technology is revolutionizing fuel management systems (FMS) by streamlining operations for commercial fleet and retail fueling stations. Integrating RFID technology with third-party databases, vehicle pump interfaces and transaction records is giving fleet managers better control over fleet fuel expenses and billing, helping them streamline operations and costs. The benefits aren’t limited to a particular kind of fleet either. Supply chain and logistics, airport maintenance, mining, construction, government, highway maintenance and refuse vehicle fleets are all potential candidates.

Final Thoughts

The nuances and intricacies of the automotive industry are the perfect use case for RFID technology. These trends are just a few examples of how RFID can be utilized in the field to track and manage crucial objects and data.

To learn more about how RFID technology can optimize supply chain operations for the automotive industry, please join us for a free 50-minute webinar, How RFID/IoT Can Turbo-Charge Automotive Production & Supply Chain Processes, on Tuesday, June 27 at 3:00 PM CET | 9:00 AM ET | 8:00 AM CT.

Want to implement RFID tracking at your automotive company? Contact HID today.

Nick Iandolo is an experienced Senior Editor Marketing Strategist specializing in Content Marketing and Corporate Communications Writing, primarily for market-disrupting technology organizations. His work has been featured in publications such as Morning Consult, NewDesign Magazine UK, SmartCard Identity News, and Construction Outlook. Nick is also a Spartan Race athlete, and lives just outside of Boston Mass with his wife, daughter, and Golden Retriever.