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Yellow Corp Takes RFID on the Road

The company is demonstrating RFID technology at its conference this week, and it may launch a pilot.
Jan 15, 2003Jan. 16, 2003 - Transportation companies have been conspicuously absent from all the news about RFID over the past year. But Yellow Corp., a transportation services provider based in Overland Park, Kan., plans to drive adoption. The company is demonstrating an RFID application at its Transformation Conference in Las Vegas this week.
Yellow wants to track shipments with RFID

Some 1,800 Yellow customers are attending the show. The company worked with Sun Microsystems and OATSystems to set up a dock door with portal readers and a simple receiving application. When tagged cartons are pushed through the dock door, the application screens will show the inventory being updated automatically in a mock distribution center.

"We truly believe that this technology will transform the supply chain," says Lynn Caddell, president of Yellow Technologies, a technology service provider to Yellow Transportation. "We're trying to stimulate the thinking of the attendees about RFID and how it can be used in their organizations. But we put it in the context of our business."

Yellow Transportation, a subsidiary of Yellow Corp., is one of the US's leading less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers, along with Roadway Express. Yellow Transportation operates a fleet of 8,000 tractors and 35,000 trailers and has a network of some 400 cross-docking locations throughout North America. The company currently uses bar codes to track goods and believes that RFID could provide valuable efficiencies.

"We believe there are multiple value propositions to the technology," says Rich Hardt, Yellow's VP of technology services. "Externally to the customer, it provides more visibility of their shipment and their goods. Internally, it helps us improve our dock operations, our yard operations, and the way we manage our transportation network itself."

One of the big questions surrounding RFID's use in the supply chain is who will pay for the tags and readers needed to track goods. Yellow expects, at least initially, to have to buy not just readers for its facilities, but also tags to put on the goods it is shipping. As RFID becomes more widely adopted, the tags will likely be put on many items by their manufacturer, which will enable Yellow to do electronic bills of lading.

"The early adopters will likely put out incentives for companies like ourselves to work with them closely and to adopt this technology as well," says Hardt.

Yellow Technologies is looking to do a pilot, perhaps with a retailer or consumer packaged goods company, or on its own. "This is a technology that we are going to bring in the door and take a serious look at this year," says Hardt. "A pilot could range from one dock to the a whole area of the country, and we haven't decided that yet."
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