NXP Semiconductors

Smarter Vehicle Manufacturing with NXP UCODE 9xm Tags

Automotive manufacturing, component supply and after-sales services made more efficient and secure

NXP UCODE 9xm Tags

Throughout the automotive industry, as part of the larger trend of Industry 4.0, manufacturers and their supply chain partners are using RAIN RFID for item-level digitization.

RAIN RFID allows them to identify, locate, and engage with items of all kinds – tools, raw materials, sub-components, finished products – at every point in production, delivery, and even after the sale.

Company Story powered by: the Think WIOT Group and NXP.

RAIN RFID For Automotive

RAIN RFID For Automotive

The combination of accuracy, speed, and convenience is why RAIN RFID already connects billions of everyday items to business critical systems and the Internet.

  • RAIN RFID is the comercial name for the technology defined by GS1's EPC Gen2 RFID standards
  • Passive (meaning battery-less) wireless technology
  • Tags can be embedded in rigid tags, paper stickers, or part of circuit boards
  • High bulk reading accuracy; hundreds of tags can be identified per second
  • Long read range of up to 10 m without line of sight
  • Readers: handheld units, mounted on forklifts, dock doors, overhead locations that cover large areas within a warehouse

With RAIN RFID, hundreds of individual items can be accurately counted in less than a second. This makes it possible to verify that every item loaded into a shipping container, stored into a bin, or loaded onto a truck, is fully accounted for.

International and national organizations have formulated standards, guidelines and recommendations for the deployment of RAIN RFID in the automotive industry, thereby ensuring interoperability throughout the supply chain and during assembly globally. ISO/IEC, GS1, Germany’s VDA, Odette International in the EU, and AIAG in the US, amongst others, have laid out rules regarding RFID for containers, parts and components, and sub-assemblies.

GS1 SGTIN documents encoding for tire identification. The VDA, for example, recommends the use of passive RFID tags and an extended memory size in order to store more identification data on the tag.

Six Sigma and Kaizen are optimization methods used in car manufacturing for error reduction. RAIN RFID can further enhance these methods through increased automation and data-driven optimization. The goal of Lean Six Sigma, for instance, is the eliminate waste and reduce the number of defects to no more than 3.4 per 1,000,000 units produced. Similar to this, Kaizen pursues the goal of “continuous improvement” of the production process.

UCODE supports these methodologies. According to a 2022 study on warehouse logistics, process cycle time can be reduced by 91.5 percent when Lean Six Sigma and RFID technology are used in combination. Lead time, that is the amount of time it takes to complete a specific process from preparation to the finished product, can be reduced by 13 percent.

To support the ruggedness and reliability needed for vehicle operation, RAIN RFID tags are often constructed with special materials and adhesives that are purpose-engineered and pre-qualified to withstand automotive-grade production and operation.

Tag materials including nylon, PP plastics, glass fiber, ferrites made of nickel-zinc (Ni-Zn) and manganese-zinc (Mn- Zn), and ceramics embedded in metal make the tags resistant to dirt and dust, water and harsh chemicals, sudden impact or shock, and electric overcharge. RAIN RFID can therefore be deployed where barcodes and other optical codes fail, including high-temperature environments, where peak temperatures can range between 190 and 230 °C.

High-temperature RAIN RFID tags can be mounted on the skid on which the chassis is transported through production. This way, the vehicle's path can be tracked from the body shop to final assembly.

RAIN RFID can be used just about anywhere in the vehicle – inside, outside, under the hood – and with difficult-to-label automotive components, including batteries, engine blocks, fuel caps, bumpers, cables, and tires.

UCODE based tags on the chassis

UCODE based tags on the chassis contain important information about the paintwork, engine and equipment. Long read ranges make it easy to capture this data as the vehicle is built.

Production & Logistics Benefits Offered by UCODE

Tagging each part and tool makes it easier to monitor the exact location of items and enables actions to ensure that everything is where it should be.

Tags on battery, bumper, engine and transmission

In the front area of a car there are tags on the battery, on the bumper, on the engine and on the transmission.

UCODE label based systems enable full visibility, from the earliest stages of manufacturing to final vehicle delivery and after-sales. Shipping and receiving becomes more automated, with the ability to process many items at once. As a result, inventory control becomes faster and more precise. Authorized parties can access real-time information about item status.

When each part and tool is tagged, monitoring where things are becomes easy and incredibly quick. By contrast, scanning a barcoded item manually can take up to 8 seconds – which can translate to around 19 cents – and as an average modern car is tagged approximately 50 times, the costs add up quickly. Searching for components manually is even more time consuming. Just having an accurate picture of item location makes operations more efficient and allows for zero-defect replenishment at the production line.

Tagged items ensure that the right parts, components, and tools are where they are needed. This way, production lines can stay up and running, avoiding significant financial implications and maintaining reliable on-time delivery.

Downtime is a serious issue in automotive production. According to investigations carried out by the Wall Street Journal, unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion annually.

Delays caused by inoperative equipment and unexpected repairs are the cause of 42 percent of this unplanned downtime. Reliable machine condition monitoring with UCODE based tags lower the risk of line shutdowns and thus help avoid supplier fines, lost sales, and real damage to the manufacturer’s brand.

Research carried out by Deloitte suggests that smart factories utilizing RAIN RFID reap a range of profits through cost reductions. Savings in material costs amount to 5 to 10 percent. 20 to 50 percent in time spent on maintenance planning is saved, and there is a 5 to 10 percent decrease in overall maintenance costs.

Increased equipment uptime and availability amounts to 10 to 20 percent, leaving more time for data- driven problem solving.

When dealing with supply chain partners, UCODE makes it easier to track all the components required for vehicle assembly, simplify the monitoring of parts being delivered from different suppliers, and holds suppliers more accountable for accuracy.

In addition, automated shipping notices, issued without introducing extra steps to the shipping process, keep suppliers and customers better informed, without additional effort.

Better Container Management

One of the areas where RAIN RFID can make a big impact in the automotive industry is the management of containers used to store, ship, and dispense parts. According to VDA 5500, RAIN RFID tags are particularly well-suited for tracking & tracing these containers due to their low cost and ability to handle rugged environments.

This inherent robustness helps maintain operational efficiency throughout the entire life cycle of the Returnable Transport Items (RTI) they are attached to.

In the automotive supply chain, packaging has become almost as important as the parts themselves. Odette and other standardizing bodies strongly recommend RTIs. Plastic and metal containers which can be used more than once are purpose-built to meet the international measurements for supply chains.

The VDA standard provides for three size levels in which the base area is the nominal dimensions of 300 mm × 200 mm or multiples thereof. The boxes can be stacked and the dimensions are such that four boxes of size 600 mm × 400 mm cover one standard Euro pallet. Containers for automotive production come with special designs and dedicated inside packaging materials (dunnage) which protect delicate parts during transport.

Reusable containers are expensive to build, and ownership can be hard to determine, which means they routinely get lost or damaged, and are prone to theft. People may steal them for their own use or (in the case of metal containers) melt them down to sell the metal.

In most companies, up to 20 percent of the container pool is routinely lost, sometimes even as much as 60 percent. This necessitates the production of new containers and thereby the consumption of more raw materials, which creates avoidable costs.

When the correct metal or plastic containers for parts are not available, supply chain partners may resort to single-use packaging. This usually does not provide the necessary protection for components. Single- use packaging has also become more expensive. Raw material prices having increased by 23 percent in the last two years. Furthermore, due to changes in packaging regulations in the UK, single-use packaging will become more expensive than RTIs as early as 2024.

RAIN RFID systems are key for determining true volume when managing a container pool and to avoid misplaced items, component shortages, and loss of container inventory. With UCODE based tags, the containers themselves can be tracked and traced, as can the individual items transported within the container.

Whole shipments of containers can be read at any time, with a high degree of accuracy.

Containers for automotive parts are expensive and necessary for supply chain and production. Their inventory levels can be managed easily with UCODE based tags and container theft can be identified.

Better Container Management

Due to their ability to handle rugged environments and protect valuable components, Reusable Transport Items such as these containers are crucial for automotive production.

After-Production and After-Sales

The usefulness of RAIN RFID does not stop at the factory door but includes after-production, after-sales services and recalls.

Tire tags are embedded inside the rubber during production

UCODE based tags can be integrated into parts or components by injection molding. Tire tags are embedded inside the rubber during production.

Assembled and finished vehicles are tagged after the assembly process, and the tags are captured by a stationary reader as they leave the factory lot. The vehicles are driven to the storage yard and parked in a free RFID-tagged parking space. Once the parking is complete, a read request creates a record of which space each vehicle is in.

RAIN RFID tags can be embedded into safety- critical items, such as air bags and bumpers. A scan of the vehicle prior to release from the manufacturers makes it possible to check that these critical items have been installed and confirm their status. Nonetheless, vehicle recalls occur frequently.

In the US, between 2011 and 2020 a record number of 331 million vehicles were recalled for safety-related defects. The total recall rate for that period was at 201 percent, which means that more than twice as many vehicles were recalled as new vehicles were sold in the same period. Product quality remains a key issue in the automotive industry.

Downtime is a serious issue in automotive production. According to investigations carried out by the Wall Street Journal, unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion annually.

UCODE based tags simplify the recall process by identifying the right parts with greater efficiency and fewer errors. If problems occur, the specific identifier can be read out quickly, making it easier to pinpoint any items or vehicles that need to be recalled and more clearly identify which suppliers or distributors need to be involved. Limiting the number of assets and batches that need to be dealt with lowers the cost of a given recall and prevents recalling more than is necessary.

A relatively new innovation is RAIN RFID tags for tires. In 2019, ISO published the standard on this in the ISO 20909:2019. A tire tag can withstand vulcanization, so it can be embedded inside the rubber, where it enables identification and collects information as it moves through the supply chain.

Once the tire is in use on a vehicle, the tag makes it easier to integrate after-sales services, with quick reads of tire type and origin, as well as being able to gain operational data from other systems such as distance traveled.

In addition, RAIN RFID tire tags close the gaps in the tire recall system. Malfunctions occurring in tires can cause serious accidents. Tire recalls need to be swift and thorough. For example, in spring of 2023 Michelin recalled more than 542,000 light truck tires in the U.S. because they did not have enough traction for snowy conditions and tire manufacturer Continental also issued a global recall for several tire models too, at the beginning of 2023.

By providing a quick and easy way to identify recalled tires, RAIN RFID tags can save lives and reduce the overall recall costs and liability for tire manufacturers.


880 Bit Storage For Production

NXP has introduced the high memory and performance UCODE 9xm.

RFID & Wireless IoT Global talks to James Goodland, Director of UCODE Solutions at NXP Semiconductors, about the advantages of the memory expansions for industrial applications.

Yes, UCODE 9xm has more storage space designed for a variety of industries and more performance than previous generations of industrial focused UCODE products. The usual memory structure on a RAIN RFID chip includes the EPC memory, which contains a unique identification number, the TID memory bank, which contains information written by the chip manufacturer, and the reserved memory containing the tag passwords. These three memory units are always present and sufficient for many RFID applications.

In addition, there is the optional user memory, for many applications this extra memory is not required, such as in retail. However, for the industrial space, additional EPC memory or user memory is absolutely necessary to ensure the agreed data is encoded on the tag and can be identified by the value chain partners. We make full use of the extended memory with UCODE 9xm.

The UCODE 9xm has a total of 880 bits. A maximum of 752 bits are available in the user memory. We have additionally expanded the memory capacities of the EPC, where 496 bits can be used depending on the configuration.

96 bits is the minimum required for an EPC number, but in the automotive industry, often more data is required. Depending on the application, the color, size, weight, expiration date, production data, LOT number and serial number of the tagged products can be stored. The memory configuration of UCODE 9xm is selected by the end user during the standard encoding process. Therefore, at the point of commissioning, companies can decide if a large EPC with smaller user memory or a smaller EPC size with a larger user memory is required; or somewhere in between!

That's right, it is often sufficient if the EPC or identification number is sent to the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system as a key. Additional information is then accessed there or provided from the cloud. However, some applications require more descriptive data, for example to ensure that the status of a manufacturing process is understood from one point to another. In addition, when different ERP systems are used, the stored data cannot always be interpreted quickly enough and without errors. This causes problems.

Furthermore, interruptions in connectivity still exist for a variety of reasons. Because the availability of descriptive data together with the product can be crucial for the entire process, it is more robust and more expedient to store it on the chip. This way, the data is accessible at the exact moment it is needed.

There are many use cases in the automotive supply chain, manufacturing and after-production; all of which can be fulfilled by using UCODE 9xm. However, not all use cases in all markets require the large memory provided by this chip, therefore, UCODE 9 or UCODE 9xe might be more appropriate. Whatever the use case, there is a UCODE 9 variant that will provide the memory, performance and quality you’d expect from NXP.

Every member of the UCODE 9 family has been developed to provide high performance in some of the RFID world’s most difficult applications. UCODE 9xm, in particular, has been specifically designed to support industrial and manufacturing use cases by providing the necessary sensitivity along with customer configurable memory making it flexible for use in both the automotive industry as well as many others.

Cookies are necessary to provide you with our services. By continuing your visit on the website, you consent to the use of cookies.
More information Ok