RFID Helps IKEA Furniture Maker Eliminate Shipping Errors
Lithuanian company Klaipedos Baldai attaches EPC RFID tags to pallets of products it sends to IKEA stores worldwide, ensuring that only the correct items are loaded onto trucks.
The goods may then be stored at the warehouse for a number of days while the remainder of the order is loaded onto pallets, after which the shipment is ready to be placed onto a delivery truck destined for that store. When the pallets are ready for shipment, the forklifts' computer screens indicate which pallets must be picked, as well as to which dock they should be delivered. The drivers then proceed to retrieve those pallets and bring them to the designated dock door, where an RFID reader captures each pallet's ID number. The reader forwards that information to the SAP system, which compares each pallet's ID with the appropriate order for that dock door, ensuring that all of the pallets are correct.
In the event that an incorrect pallet is being loaded, or if a pallet is missing, the SAP software displays an alert on the forklift operator's mobile computer screen, indicating the problem. The operator can then correct the issue by removing the incorrect pallet, or by adding the missing one. In this way, the company reports, the software prevents shipments errors.
The complete deployment was taken live in September 2012, and the company uses approximately 17,000 tags per month. To date, Janušauskas says, the system has eliminated the incidence of shipping-error claims. For management, he adds, "We can see, in real time, which trucks are being loaded, and what products were already loaded."
According to Janušauskas, the system has also provided data regarding production. Since the tag is encoded and read when an item's components are boxed, he says, "this works as a flag for end of production and automatic acceptance to stock, so we can see, in real time, exact quantities of products in stock."
"We've gotten no claims from our customers about mixed pallets or other loading mistakes," Janušauskas reports. This, he says, "grows our customer satisfaction and confidence about our service, and saves our customers' resources. In the future, we will consider wider usage of RFID technology." One example he cites involves the use of RFID to track spare parts for machinery utilized onsite.
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