Honda Italia, a subsidiary of Honda Motor Company, has signed a contract with IBM to deploy radio frequency identification technology (RFID) and equipment at its motorbike plant in Atessa, Italy.

Nicola Marrone, project executive for Honda Italia said the new system will help the company achieve higher levels of efficiency and accuracy in managing its large motorcycle and scooter production operation.

IBM Global Business Services will support Honda Italia in the design and development of the RFID implementation, which will support automatic real-time identification of each vehicle along the production chain, said Gaetano Sodo, supply chain management leader at IBM Global Business Services. The RFID tags will also be used on small batches of critical components, such as engines and brakes, Marrone said.

The RFID technology will be integrated with Honda's IT systems through an open standards-based, Linux and J2EE application built on the IBM WebSphere Application Server to track inventory and to monitor ways to improve efficiency, Sodo said.

The first phase of the project, completed earlier this year, revamped the assembly line for Honda's Hornet 600 motorcycle and other models, Sodo said. The RFID tags were used to monitor the tracing of critical components, management of work in progress and inventory replenishment. In the future, RFID tags will also be applied to Honda's scooter production line, starting with the European bestseller SH150i/125i and the bigger SH300i, Marrone said.

Marrone said Honda plans to use the RFID-based system to support other operations, such as the supply chain and aftersales services.

The plan is to use RFID tags at all the major points in the assembly line to keep track of parts at each step in the manufacturing process and replenish them efficiently, said Marrone. "A number of readers will be put in the manufacturing line in order to advise on the need to replenish these critical components."