S'pore Nissan facility goes RFID

update Nissan's exclusive Singapore distributor cuts car storage and retrieval time from 24 to two hours using radio frequency identification in new integrated hub.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor on

update SINGAPORE--A new Nissan hub is tapping radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to help cut time for identification and retrieval of new cars, from an average of 24 hours to two hours.

Located in the Western part of Singapore, the new TC Nissan Hub operated by Tan Chong International is believed to be the first RFID-enabled automotive facility in the country. Tan Chong International is the exclusive local distributor of Nissan vehicles.

Tan Chong's project was awarded a grant of S$120,000 (US$82,632) from Singapore's National RFID Centre (NRC) earlier this year, under the NRC's S$4.5 million (US$3.1 million) RFID Innovation Platform initiative. To date, the Centre has funded 11 projects to the tune of S$1.25 million (US$860,750), an NRC spokesperson told ZDNet Asia.

Boon Swan Foo, chairman of NRC steering committee and executive chairman of Exploit Technologies, said the RFID application projects do not necessarily have to be on a gigantic scale such as Wal-Mart's.

"The possibilities for new applications are left up to the creativity of the beholder [and] TC Nissan Hub is an excellent example of how such creativity can be exercised by innovative RFID players to benefit both the consumers and the company," Boon said Monday at the hub's official opening here.

Singapore's Acting Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew, lauded the project as "a good demonstration of local RFID technology capability". The systems integrator, applications developer and device manufacturer were Singapore companies, he noted.

"Newer", faster cars in one-stop facility
Samuel Lee, director of Tan Chong Realty, the company's real-estate arm, said the company had invested S$40 million (US$27.5 million) into the new site, which integrates storage, pre-delivery inspection, parts warehouse and delivery facilities.

RFID tagging system in TC Nissan Hub
Source: Tan Chong International

Prior to the setting up of the hub, new vehicles would have to be manually located in storage locations, sent for installations at a separate venue--after which they would be returned to the storage site--and subsequently delivered to the showroom for customer pick-ups. The point-to-point transportation, identification and retrieval of these vehicles can "easily clock" some 24 hours to complete, Lee explained, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

With the proximity of various Nissan facilities, as well as the RFID-enabled car inventory management system, vehicle identification and retrieval can be shortened to two hours, he said. Mileage is also reduced by 90 percent, from an average of 50 kilometer (km) to less than 5km.

The use of a Japanese modular parking system also allows cars to not only be retrieved quickly, but also helps minimize--if not eliminate--scratches and dents.

At the hub, each new car is tagged with an RFID chip, which captures information such as the year the car was manufactured, its engine serial number, color and type, and the name of the customer who made the booking. There are also corresponding active readers on each parking lot known as "lot tags". The hub has 10 wireless readers used to track vehicles, including cars that need to undergo installations for additional features such as sports rims and alarm systems.

RFID technology is not a new proponent in Nissan's operations. According to the RFID Journal, Nissan North America announced in 2006 it would employ RFID in its Canton, Miss. factory to track auto parts and facilitate new vehicles rolling off the assembly line. The automaker also participated in a trial to improve the safety of Japanese schoolchildren in Yokohama, Japan.

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