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Eskimo Cold Storage Recoups RFID Investment in a Flash

The Georgia company is using an RFID system to help identify the locations of pallets loaded with chicken and other flash-frozen food products.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 24, 2014

Eskimo Cold Storage, a frozen foods storage company based in Gainesville, Ga., has already saved $100,000 since installing RFID readers about four months ago, and forecasts an annual savings of $233,000. The company installed an RFID reader at the end of 20 aisles within its warehouse, so that it could confirm where its thousands of pallets are located as they are put away or removed. The solution, says Karen Reece, Eskimo Cold Storage's VP, ensures that loaded pallets can be quickly located when required for outgoing shipments—thereby reducing the amount of labor required to search for missing goods, while also preventing the need to pay a customer for something that is missing. The RFID technology, which captures read data collected from tagged pallets and forwards that information to the company's warehouse-management system (WMS), was provided by Jamison RFID.

The company provides cooling and storage for food producers. The vast majority of the products consists of chicken, but also includes seafood. Businesses bring the meat to Eskimo Cold Storage to be flash-frozen and then stored in freezers until purchased by customers within the United States or overseas. Eskimo focuses on making the product available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as needed. Its facility spans 10.9 million cubic feet and has 32,000 pallet positions that rise seven levels high in the cold-storage area, in about 50 different aisles (each with 600 pallet positions), while 480 pallets are received and shipped daily by approximately 20 trucks.

At a number of aisles within Eskimo's storage facilities, four Motorola AN480 antennas are mounted at each entranceway.
When a customer's palletized products arrive by truck, they must be frozen and stored, and another truck might pick up those same products only a day or two later. Two of Eskimo's largest customers require especially fast turnaround times (with goods available at the dock doors at a very specific time), and the palletized products must be reloaded on a truck in the identical configuration they were in when delivered to Eskimo.

To meet these demands, Eskimo Cold Storage employs a Datex WMS that tracks which pallets are onsite and where they are located, based on their shelf and aisle locations within the cold storage area. Operators feed information to the warehouse-management software by using a handheld device to scan a bar code on the pallet label and then inputting the shelf and aisle ID numbers while moving each pallet into storage.

Eskimo Cold Storage's Karen Reece
This works well about 97 to 98 percent of the time, Reece says. However, she notes, there are occasions when the operator might fail to complete that step, or when a pallet may be moved and its new location not entered into the system. When this occurs, the company has no choice but to dispatch two to six staff members equipped with bar-code scanners into the warehouse on foot, or in forklifts, to search for that pallet among the 32,000 that could be in storage. Searching for a missing pallet can takes days, she notes. If the team fails to locate the specific pallet, Eskimo must then pay the amount that a retailer would have been charged for the goods, as well as cover shipping costs.

Because the accuracy of its pallet location data was still fairly high, Eskimo did not want to disrupt its existing system. Rather, it opted to improve on it. The firm was especially concerned about products for the two companies that had the most stringent requirements regarding shipping times and also represent about 60 percent of Eskimo's total sales, Reece says.

USER COMMENTS

Marco Mart 2014-06-26 09:42:57 PM
"... Recoups RFID Investment in a Flash". I want to believe it, I really do, but ... what were the actual total cost of the RFID investment ? I can't seem to find a figure in this article ...
Claire Swedberg 2014-06-27 12:05:32 PM
Thanks for your comment. You'll see above that the RFID cost was $100,000.

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