Kautex-Unipart, producer of plastic fuel tanks for BMW, Honda, and Janguar Land Rover, has introduced an image-based verification system, Visidot from Zetes, to eliminate supply induced delivery errors, ensure 100 per cent delivery accuracy and provide full traceability

Early in the 1970s, Kautex pioneered the use of plastic fuel tanks as a replacement for steel. Today, over 85 per cent of tanks used in all European car production are made of plastic tanks and this figure is still growing.

From its Coventry factory, Kautex-Unipart produces plastic fuel tanks for BMW, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover. Once manufactured, the fuel tanks are loaded onto pallets able to hold eight different variants of tank (stillages), ready for transport to the BMW factory. Over 100 stillages are dispatched by Kautex to BMW each day.

To meet BMW’s Just in Sequence (JIS 5000) manufacturing process, which requires the correct components to be delivered on time and exactly in sequence with the vehicle production process, Kautex-Unipart introduced Visidot to eliminate supply induced delivery errors, ensure 100 per cent delivery accuracy and provide full traceability. Mistakes in component sequencing can be very costly and potentially result in stoppages on the production lines.

“BMW’s JIS manufacturing process meant Kautex could not afford to make dispatch errors and needed a supply chain traceability solution able to ensure the correct tanks were loaded onto the stillage and stored in the right location,” says Jan Parylo, IT manager at Kautex-Unipart. “We also wanted to streamline operational processes, so speed and precision were important requirements and our overall aim was to deliver 100 per cent accuracy for outbound shipments.”

Verification solution

After an extensive market review of supply chain traceability and dispatch solutions, the company decided upon Visidot, a verification solution which uses image capture to enable fast and accurate visual identification of the 2D Data Matrix barcodes applied to fuel tanks. Capable of verifying hundreds of tags in any orientation in just seconds, Visidot also produces an image of the captured assets, which is archived by Kautex for potential recall purposes.

“BMW requires all its suppliers to assume full responsibility for the components they deliver, which means all products must be checked right down to the last detail and delivered on time,” says James Hannay, senior VP for Zetes northern region which owns the Visidot solution integrated with Kautex’s WMS and ERP systems.

When preparing a customer order, the dispatch operator retrieves the tank models on the order generated by the ERP system and the locations in which the tanks should be located in the stillage. Visidot then captures and verifies that the tanks are in the correct location. If the system identifies that one is in the wrong chamber of the stillage, that chamber is highlighted in red on the operator’s screen, enabling them to quickly locate and rectify the situation. Once the system has verified the correct tanks are in the approved chamber, the stillage is dispatched, on time, and with a 100 per cent guarantee of accuracy.

“BMW is very happy with the level of service received from Kautex-Unipart as a result of this deployment and views this as a model solution. BMW has on several occasions brought other sequenced suppliers on site to demonstrate this simple yet effective solution,” says Parylo.