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Case Studies

Learn more about the innovative work and services Symbolic Systems has provided its clients. These case studies provide an informative summary of the solutions we designed for our clients’ specific need.

Information Technology
Automotive Photo Inspection System

Quick Solutions when Time is Critical

Time was the critical success factor for an Inspection Vendor, when its customer, General Motors, requested immediate receipt of digital photographs of inspected cars. Rather than develop a customized application, Symbolic provided a cost-effective, turnkey solution, and installed a fully functional prototype in the Inspection Vendors Inspection yard within two weeks.

Background

In a successful off-lease operation, a leased car will be re-sold within a few days of its return. This means that all of the parties involved-the dealership or leasing agency, the inspection service, the rail or truck transporter, and the ultimate reseller- must all perform their services as quickly and efficiently as possible. The inspection vendor plays a key role in determining its ultimate disposition. Off-lease cars in good condition tend to be directed for sale over the Internet; cars in poor condition tend to be re-sold at auction sites.

In the past, inspection results were all data. The inspector, using a hand-held device, entered damage information about the car for transmission to GM’s system. The inspector worked his way down rows of cars lined up one behind the other. Over time, the ability to take a digital photograph was added, but the photos only taken upon request from GM after it was determined the card would be sold via the Internet. This meant they were transmitted long after the car’s damage record, often with other cars on the line in the photo, and sometimes too late for timely use on GM’s Internet-based Smart Auction Sale site.

With more and more cars being sold over the Internet, timely receipt of higher quality photos became a critical business issue for GM. After all, how can cars be displayed for sale without a professional digital image? Clearly, the Inspection Vendor needed to modify its operation to incorporate immediate digital image transmission. The inspection Vendor turned to Symbolic for help. Symbolic helped them to computerize many of its business processes over the last ten years. This provided the advantage of familiarity with the vendor’s off-lease business, software and nationwide inspection facilities. Without a learning curve, Symbolic personnel could brainstorm, quickly develop a solution and implement it.

Solution

The Network and Software

Traditionally, inspectors took digital photographs when required with a hand-held camera. Photos were not adequate for use in a sales-related advertisement. Symbolic determined that the Inspection Vendor should take photos of all cars coincident with inspection, that the photos needed to be taken at a better angle, and a clean background would enhance each car’s sales appeal. A tent, in the car inspection line, provided a perfect all-weather shoot location. Symbolic purchased three off-the-shelf StarDot Technologies Netcam cameras and added variable focus lenses to accommodate focusing at a variety of distances and in a variety of lighting situations. The cameras were mounted from the ceiling, so that vehicles to be photographed traveling through the tent would not accidentally knock them over. Two cameras, each about seven feet above the ground, are positioned to take photos of the front and left side and the back and right side, respectively. The third camera, mounted much higher and toward the front of the tent, serves as a live demonstration web cam for the remote viewing of the operation. The cameras all have a self-contained operating system with their own assigned IP addresses.

The cameras are connected via a 3COM hub on the side of the tent to a workstation running the picture capture and a transmission application, a Lexmark color printer for printing sample pictures, and a Wasp CCD scanner to scan vehicle VIN numbers. Also connected via a USB port is an Epson camera that enables the inspector to photograph and upload damages. The network is connected via a DSL Internet connection to the inspection station’s trailer/office. This enables FTP (file transfer) of the photos to the “Smart Auction” computer.

A Visual Basic 6.0 program was written to capture the still photos of the cars from the two Netcam cameras, load the additional photos of damages taken via the hand-held camera, and associate all with a scanned VIN number.

The Process

The process is simple. The inspector drives the car into position in the center of the tent. He first scans the VIN to identify the car and allow proper naming of the pictures. The two still shots are automatically captured from the ceiling-mounted cameras. The inspector then takes any required damage shots using the hand-held camera. Once completed, the inspector connects the hand-held camera via the USB serial cable for automatic download to the active record. The inspector can then view, delete, and re-shoot photos until satisfied. Then they are named (identified by VIN) and transmitted to the GM Smart Auction computer for immediate transmission.

A Satisfied Result

The Inspection Vendor met its customers need within a few weeks of request, because Symbolic not only realized that the solution was a quick, efficient, and primarily off-the-shelf integration of existing equipment and software, but Symbolic also had a consulting staff that could bring it all together and install the solution within a two week period. The key was understanding the customer’s needs and knowing that the critical factor was time.
 
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Quick Solutions when Time is Critical

Time was the critical success factor for an Inspection Vendor, when its customer, General Motors, requested immediate receipt of digital photographs of inspected cars. Rather than develop ...

Read more