Rollout of RFID transmission tags based on the AutoID middleware You-R® OPEN

ZF Friedrichshafen AG counts on leading software platform by RF-iT Solutions GmbH.

(PresseBox) ( Graz, )
The 8-speed transmission generation by ZF Friedrichshafen is setting new standards worldwide in terms of performance and fuel savings. In addition to more dynamic driving due to gear shift times of only 200 milliseconds, the 8HP transmission offers above all a reduction of fuel consumption by 6 percent compared with the second-generation ZF 6-speed automatic transmission. In addition to constant product innovation, ZF also focuses on further developing production and logistics processes. ZF introduced novel RFID tagging of the 8HP transmissions, which is tailored specifically to the production in the manufacturing chain of transmissions. This enabled a lean design and efficient control of the manufacturing, assembly and test processes. Moreover, the traceability of parts back to suppliers of transmission housings was once again improved and refined.

Complete process chain connected through RFID
The RFID tag primarily serves to control the production and installation process and the related logistics. As technology leader, the company has utilized RFID technology for process control for a long time. So far, the closed systems still customary in the industry have been employed. These systems are limited to the respective process areas. Between these areas, information had to be transferred via interfaces, requiring a complex and inhomogeneous infrastructure. With the RFID tags, the complete process chain is now connected via one medium, and the flow of goods and information is synchronized covering all areas.
The RFID tags are applied by the housing caster at the beginning of the life cycle and labeled with the production data of the casting process. From this point, the transmission has a clear identity and can thus be traced back very far. For this purpose, ZF transfers the casting and raw part data saved on the RFID tag to its own IT system at the beginning of the production chain. This chain consists of manufacturing (mechanical treatment of the transmission housing), assembly and final inspection. In all production steps, the transmission is identified fully automatically and without contact via the RFID tag. The data of the RFID tag controls the working steps at the main production groups.

Functional advantages used optimally
At the end of production at the latest, the use of classic RFID production systems ended. At ZF, however, the RFID tag remains on the transmission after production, helps trace it in the subsequent transmission processes and offers the possibility to control vehicle assembly processes at the OEMs. In the long term, the usage of the tag as a type plate in the workshops for conducting and documenting inspections is also possible. This application still requires the creation of the necessary organizational and system framework conditions, but for ZF the decision to apply the RFID technology has already been worthwhile.

The robustness of RFID tags has secured further improved identification and thus rules out confusion in the entire production area. Barcode labels, which were traditionally applied, used to partially peel off the transmission in the washing and cleaning processes and had to be replaced with the appropriate data by human contact.
By saving process and product data directly, working stations are synchronized easily, interface complexity is reduced and continuous traceability is ensured. In addition to these functional advantages, the RFID technology also offers the best price-performance ratio and identification stability compared with other AutoID technologies such as laser engraving. In the end, this was the determining factor for the decision of ZF. “The next step we can offer our customers is to optimize the logistics processes together based on the RFID technology of the 8-speed transmission. This may also provide added value in the assembly processes of our customers”, says Gerhard Schaller, head of the factory automation IT department in Saarbrücken and responsible for the implementation of the RFID project.

Cost reduction realized
ZF launched this project with a pilot in 2007 in order to test the technical suitability of the technology, in particular the mechanical durability of the transponders. Following a positive evaluation of the business case by the steering committee, the establishment and gradual commissioning of the individual processing stations of the 8HP production line started in 2008. Since early 2009, production has been in the start-up phase, with the start of serial production being imminent. 15 RFID stations are located along the first manufacturing line, and ZF expects a rapid increase in production volume in the first few years.
For the planning and implementation of the RFID project, ZF invited B&M TRICON, a system integrator specializing in AutoID technologies (barcode, RFID, WLAN, imaging) with long-standing experience in production logistics in the automotive industry, to join the project team. B&M TRICON has supported ZF in the implementation of RFID projects for many years, implementing for instance a container management project at ZF’s Friedrichshafen location. Following an internal benchmark, ZF chose the AutoID middleware You-R® OPEN as the RFID standard software and is now using the integration platform by RF-iT Solutions in the second rollout project. Through the You-R® OPEN solutions, which can be programmed freely via C# by B&M TRICON, and managing the AutoID infrastructure via the central You-R® OPEN Admin Suite, ZF reduces the total cost of ownership of the project solutions.

In the solution, Siemens RF660 readers were integrated into the system through You-R® OPEN Control Logic. In the control logic, B&M TRICON has implemented the process logistics in which Data on Tag (DoT) is employed for the utilization of the user memory of the UHF Gen2 Transponder. This solution utilizes the You-R® OPEN OPC Connector for the exchange of data with the Simatic automation world and the SQL Connector for saving data in the project data base. In the transmission tagging project, B&M TRICON planned and realized the pilot installation, supported ZF in the evaluation of components, the integration of the RFID hardware in the IT landscape and in launching the RFID stations by means of the You-R® OPEN Admin Suite.

About ZF Friedrichshafen
ZF Friedrichshafen AG is one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers of driveline and chassis technology with 125 locations in 26 countries. ZF employs roughly 61,000 people. In 2008 the company reported revenues of 12.5 billion euros. In the worldwide ranking of automotive suppliers, ZF ranges among the 15 largest companies. The Car Driveline Technology Division is responsible for the business units Automatic Transmissions, Manual and Dual Clutch Transmissions for Passenger Cars. At the location Saarbrücken, 6-speed, and now also 8-speed, automatic transmissions for passenger cars are manufactured. Production volume in Saarbrücken amounted to roughly 900,000 transmissions in 2008.

About B&M Tricon
B&M and TRICON are companies of TRIERENBERG Holding AG. B&M focuses on Barcode and Mobile Solutions, while TRICON specializes in RFID solutions and engineering. With 50 employees in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, B&M TRICON is one of the leading providers of AutoID solutions for industry, trade, retail, transport and logistics. We support companies in planning, realizing and launching useful RFID-based systems. We offer our customers tailor-made solutions ranging from the concept and implementation of complete solutions, through the development of customized electronic components to the distribution of RFID components of all leading manufacturers.

TRICON Consulting GmbH & CO.KG. Johann Roithner-Straße 131, 4020 Traun
Tel.: +43 (0) 7229 74100 611, Fax: +43 (0) 7229 74100 600
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