Italy Honda uses integrated active and passive RFID technology to track motorcycle component assembly

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Italy Honda is currently tracking the assembly of motorcycle components using tags that combine active and passive RFID technology. This may be the first active ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID application that the Italian government has revised since the beginning of 2008. Italy has previously blocked the use of UWB RFID technology on the grounds that it would interfere with the frequency used by the Italian military.

Italy Honda uses integrated active and passive RFID technology to track motorcycle component assembly

Honda Motorcycle

The RFID application was an extension of Honda's pilot in mid-2007. In that pilot, the company used a 13.56 MHz passive HF tag attached to the chassis and parts of the motorcycle to track the entire assembly process.

The origin of UWB active RFID applications

Angelo Coletta, the Honda project manager in Italy, said that the system designed by the company for the first pilot was once satisfactory, but the workers were disturbed by antennas installed near the production line. In addition, employees have confirmed that tags have been successfully read during production, and RFID applications have primarily added an extra step to the existing work process.

In order to eliminate this extra step and keep the antenna away from the production line, Honda of Italy started using active tags in April 2008 and launched a project called “New Ariana”, asking IBM to be a system integrator. Italy Honda temporarily installed the UWB active tag provided by Ubisense, which is attached to the chassis of each motorcycle. A total of 13 UWB RFID readers form a label reading area around the production line.

“We found that active tags are more convenient to operate,” explains Costetta.

The system ensures that Honda, Italy, installs the right components in the right motorcycle frame. For example, the company must ensure that bicycles shipped to the UK have headlamp designs that meet the requirements of this country (RFID RF Express Note: In the UK, it is generally on the left side of the road instead of the right). Companies can also use RFID systems to track the production of individual motorcycles, and this information is critical when bicycle recalls are safely repaired.

System operation combined with active and passive RFID technology

At present, the automotive parts in the container are equipped with high-frequency passive tags and active UWB tags that comply with the ISO 15693 standard and provide 1024-bit memory. Active tags allow operators to easily locate specific containers in the production area, while passive tags can be used to store important information such as supplier codes, part numbers, lot numbers and production dates. By labeling the containers, Honda Italy ensures that the parts do not mix together and ensures that the right components are mounted to the appropriate frame.

In the first step of the production process, workers attached an active RFID tag to the motorcycle chassis that will be produced, and then used a handheld reader to scan the vehicle identification code into the RFID tag. The tag transmits the signal to 13 antennas every 1 second. These antennas are placed around an 80-meter-long production line. A total of 38 stations on the production line run different production steps.

Honda motorcycle production workshop corner

In the mass production of Honda, it is generally a batch of 60 units. For this reason, the company only attaches passive and active labels to the first and last containers of each batch of components. An active tag and a passive tag are installed in all individual containers with the same components. These containers are tagged in the factory warehouse in Honda, Italy, and passive electronic tags can be linked to active tags in the database, and the labeled containers are transported to the production plant as required.

When starting a new batch production, the worker moved one of the labeled containers to the production area. The active tags are automatically read there, while the passive tags are used to store more information and connect the acquired data to the active tag via the database. Italy's Honda puts the container on an active tag, and with continuous readings it helps to confirm that the right components are assembled into the right vehicle. An alert is triggered if a worker attempts to place the wrong labelled container on the production line.

As the motorcycle chassis passes through each production stage, employees add components accordingly. If the transfer process changes, or if the manager suddenly chooses to change the production mode, the system will make it easier and faster for employees to react and process, because the manager will clearly know which part of the production line each motorcycle is in and the specific How's it going.

Based on the reading data of the bicycle active tag, the system can automatically calculate the time required to complete a mass production. Before the company adopted RFID technology, managers had to go to the production line to estimate the time spent.

After the production is completed, the active tags are taken off the motorcycle for reuse, and the production information about the vehicles is stored. Based on data collected from active and passive RFID tags, Honda will establish a corresponding motorcycle assembly documentation.

By looking at these documents, the customer will know when the motorcycle is assembled and which components are used for assembly. In addition, the system enables Honda to complete the automatic ordering of parts because it calculates the approximate time for mass production to complete.

Italy Honda uses and reuses approximately 3,000 passive tags and 300 active tags per year. The company affixes low-cost passive tags to most containers, but only purchases enough high-priced active tags for everyday production. Therefore, active tags are quickly removed and reused after production is complete.

Last update: Nov 06, 2018

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