Land Rover has joined forces with a US software and hardware specialist to design a system to track components flowing into its Lode Lane assembly plant at Solihull.
The off-road specialist, which is in the process of being sold by parent group Ford, has launched a pilot programme that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to streamline the delivery of parts from multiple suppliers.
It has been developed in conjunction with Ravi Technology, part of the Lockheed Martin engineering group, with the help of a government grant administered by the University of Warwick.
The new system will help to improve Land Rover's inventory management and utilisation of assets and reduce losses, plant disruption and the time spent locating parts.
It enables 18 suppliers and Land Rover to better locate, track, and deliver stillages (specialised steel conveyances) that carry bumpers, front grills, suspension parts, and vehicle bodies, among other parts.
Real-time information on parts tagged with RFID is automatically transmitted to cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and web-based tracking software.
"On-time, precision delivery of components is integral to our plant's efficiency because disruptions in the supply chain can slow or even halt vehicle assembly," said Jonty Cook, head of inbound logistics at Land Rover.
RFID tags are placed on stillages as they leave the component supplier's factory. Fixed readers are placed at loading and unloading docks, entrances and exits of the suppliers' and Land Rover's assembly plant.
Whenever a tagged stillage passes by a reader, the shipment is logged and location information is transmitted to designated users.
Alerts are sent when stillages do not arrive when and where they are expected.
Bruce Jacquemard, managing director of international business at California-based Savi, said the system was "perfectly suited for a complex supply chain such as Land Rover's, and can be easily scaled throughout their global operations".
The Land Rover project is funded by £700,000 of the government's £32 million PARD (Premiere Automotive Research and Development) grant.
The PARD programme, launched in 2004, is intended to increase the competitiveness of the West Midlands' vehicle industry by encouraging innovation, modernisation, and technology development.
The West Midlands represents 60 per cent of the UK's car manufacturing base.