Gulf States Toyota, a regional Toyota distributor for 145 dealers, has selected IBM and WhereNet Corp. to provide an active RFID tracking system for processing more than 190,000 cars annually. Gulf States Toyota made the investment in the system to better serve its dealers, which in turn, offers better service to customers.

Gulf States Toyota has deployed the claimed industry-first, WhereNet vehicle tracking and management system (VTMS) to locate new Toyotas at its 84-acre processing center in Houston. Where staff would "walk the lot" to identify cars for particular dealers in the past, this advanced system uses real-time locating system technology to speed delivery of vehicles to dealerships across a five-state region - reducing processing and labour costs.

The new technology enables the firm to track and manage the processing of every new vehicle, as well as to conduct flow analysis for continuous improvement and optimised throughput and quality.

When new vehicles arrive via rail car at the vehicle processing centre, each vehicle is assigned an RFID tag transmitter that is "married" to the vehicle identification number. The tag remains on the vehicle until it has been customised according to the buyer's specifications and is ready to ship to a dealer.

IBM led the overall solution development and project management. This included meshing business process consulting and back-end integration with WhereNet's RTLS architecture, including 40 WhereLAN locating access points and 74 WherePort devices. These devices trigger the car's WhereTag to emit a signal that automatically records such information as arrival, dwell, and departure time of the vehicle without any human intervention.

By incorporating business rules and system alerts based on customer order status and dwell time, a logical hierarchy of rules manages the processing of every vehicle in accordance with its assigned status so that critical orders are processed before lower-priority units. Users cannot deviate from the proper sequence without overriding the system and generating an exception report.

Due to the efficiencies gained, Gulf States Toyota expects to realise a complete return on its investment in less than one year.