The use of radio frequency identification (RFID) has been responsible for speeding up processes in several supply chains. The advanced mobility technology global company ZF, which includes autonomous cars and electric mobility, is using RFID technology from Avery Dennison in its aftermarket division and has already managed to optimize its agility and productivity by 18 percent in its Brazilian Distribution Center in Itu (São Paulo State), according to the company.
With RFID tags, ZF Aftermarket eliminated manual stages of its operation, gaining agility in its business chain, which has its distribution base in Itu. Everton Silva, Global Head of Operational Excellence of the ZF Group, spoke about the results obtained with RFID. “ZF is a leader in mobility technology and, keeping this line, seeks tools that bring efficiency to our customers in the aftermarket.”
“In 2019”, Silva continues, “we started the project to implement RFID technology in our products, at our Distribution Center in Itu, as a pilot of a global project for radio frequency identification of our products”. Currently, says the executive, 100 percent of the clutches sold by ZF Aftermarket already leave the factory with RFID. “This represents about 20 percent of all products we currently sell.”
ZF is using RFID with GS1 standard, intending to make the project a global initiative. “We are using this technology with the GS1 standard and have already seen an 18 percent increase in productivity in our receiving operations.” The parts are identified from the factory in Araraquara (SP), where the clutches are made. “In the process of integrating these parts and receiving, we registered an increase in productivity, making a comparison with the conventional system”.
The challenges and objectives that ZF has in mind with this RFID project go beyond the Itu Distribution Center (DC). “We want to have 100 percent of our products identified with RFID technology by 2022. And our idea is to have the entire chain connected, that is, from the factory to our customers,” he added.
ZF is already defining customers to carry out pilot tests, so that they start using the technology as a benefit: that is, so that they receive the products and do not need to manually count, identifying the material automatically through RFID, with cost savings and full reliability. “However, we want to go further, and connect our entire chain; and, together with our customers, support them in monitoring their inventories, in order to carry out the automatic replacement of these products and guarantee maximum availability”.
Silva says that “ZF has a very ambitious goal for this project, and Itu is our pilot. Brazil is the pilot of a project with a global reach. ZF’s idea is to put RFID into all of its global operations where it can add value to our customer.”
The executive also said that Avery Dennison has been part of the project since the beginning, which was implemented in 2019, when ZF wanted to find viable solutions for its type of product. “ZF Aftermarket’s portfolio is very broad, as we have everything from clutches, which was the first product we implemented RFID, to brake pads, small products with a lot of steel, rubber, brake fluid, etc. All products need to be identified, automatically, he explains”. “That’s why we were looking for an ally who could develop viable solutions with us for our different types of products”.
“For us, a big differentiator for Avery Dennison is the part of being a global company. So, the solution that is jointly developed in Brazil needs to be globally applicable. I cannot work with a supplier that only works in Brazil”, attested Silva. “Just as it is necessary for a supplier who has the technical capacity to act in the development and overcoming the challenges that arise with the technology, which, despite not being new, for application on the scale in which ZF is working, is something unprecedented”.
ZF Aftermarket moves a large volume of parts every day. “From 150 to 200 tons of materials circulate in the company daily. We deliver to approximately 750 points throughout South America. From Itu, we ship to ZF distribution centers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Cali, Colombia.”
ZF Aftermarket is one of the major players in the replacement parts market and today is positioned as a major provider of mobility solutions in a much broader spectrum than just vehicle parts, as stated by Silva.
Fabiana Wu, RFID manager at Avery Dennison Smartrac Latin America, defined it as a great challenge to enter the ZF project, because it is not so common. “We know that the use of RFID in sectors such as apparel retailing has become routine. In the automotive parts industry, which has a very wide variety of materials, such as rubber and metal, and with great density inside a pallet, we had to find out which product would be the best for ZF’s needs”.
For Avery executive Dennison Smartrac, it was a learning experience for everyone, not only to find the right inlay, but also how to work. “We have the support of ZF itself, the integrators who were and are with them in the project; and our international team,” she said.
Within the project, Fabiana Wu says that inlays solutions were sought that would perform well at the time of reading, regardless of the product to which they were attached. “For this, we worked with more up-to-date inlays, which had not yet been released to the market. ZF had access to special inlays, and we always tried to work with something that was legible and facilitated the process without losing authenticity, regardless of the material on which the label was placed”.
Avery Dennison Smartrac, explains Fabiana, works with integrators. “We are not integrators: who defines the partner company is the customer, in this case, ZF chose which integrator would support it in the process. Avery Dennison works closely with this integrator to find the best solution and the best design for ZF to get the most out of the adopted solution.”
Fabiana spoke about what makes ZF’s work with Avery Dennison a special achievement. “I believe that, for us, a big difference was having the support of the global team, with Avery Dennison laboratories outside Brazil; and also with our automotive industry experts who helped us with tips and recommendations”.
Avery executive Dennison Smartrac said there is still some way to go with ZF. “I would say the project is at an early stage, because we have a way to go together. However, I am optimistic because I feel that the project will be even more successful, thinking about it holistically, starting here, implementing 100% in Brazil, and managing to implement it in the rest of the world.”
Fabiana gave a message to the market: “we must all adopt RFID, because the technology is gaining ground and will open many doors to improve what we are already doing today”.
Thiago Cergol, RFID strategic account manager at Avery Dennison Smartrac in Brazil, told the story of the project, since ZF’s interest in deploying RFID for tracking and receiving products from its aftermarket line arose. “Avery Dennison was quick to offer the complete portfolio of all commercially available products and labels for testing”.
“We at Avery Dennison Smartrac, in conjunction with the technical team, offer a wide range of inlays for different types of applications, with different densities and sizes, to meet the demands of that product line,” he attested. “For Avery, the alliance with ZF allows us to carry out some tests to understand how the relationship between automotive products and the production environment is.”
“We are satisfied”, defined Cergol. “Our goal is to achieve a higher score when it comes to performance with Avery Dennison Smartrac inlays on ZF products,” he concluded. “It is also important to thank ZF and also our converter customer Tecnoprint, for the partnership in this project.”