Toyota distributor use WhereNet for vehicle tracking

Gulf States Toyota, a distributor for 145 Toyota dealers in five US states, has tapped an active RFID tracking system from WhereNet to locate and process more than 190,000 vehicles a year at its 84-acre facility in Houston.

"Toyota came to us about a year ago and said their volume was increasing and their facility was basically at capacity and either they were going to go out and build more buildings -- which they didn't want to do -- or they were going to try to get more vehicles through their existing facility," said Gary Latham, director of industry marketing for WhereNet's automotive group.

"So they asked us if we could help them do that," he said. "We deployed our vehicle tracking management system in their facility, and it increased the throughput of that facility. They're actually getting more vehicles through it with their existing workforce and their existing capacity."

As a result, Latham said, Gulf States has been able to cut labor costs and improve customer service.

Before the new system was implemented, workers had to walk the lot to identify new Toyotas destined for particular dealers. That's no longer necessary with the new system, which uses WhereNet's real-time locating technology and IBM's business process and integration services to track and manage the processing of new vehicles.

New vehicles arriving at the processing center via railcar are assigned an active RFID WhereTag transmitter associated with each car's identification number, Latham said. The WhereTag stays on the vehicle until it has been customized according to the buyer's specifications and is ready to ship to a dealer.

WhereNet's system includes 40 wireless LAN access points and 74 devices that trigger signals from the WhereTags automatically as vehicles enter or leave the facility. The system automatically records when a vehicle arrived at the center, how long it remains there and when it leaves, and enables Gulf States Toyota to set business rules and system alerts. That way, managers can process high-priority orders before lower-priority orders, Latham said.

"The IBM/WhereNet vehicle tracking and management system ... will help us serve the dealers in our region more efficiently," Gary Cole, senior manager, planning and logistics for Gulf States Toyota, said in the statement.

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