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RFID Provides Utility Company With Real-Time Visibility
A Canadian utility company tracks reels arriving and departing from its distribution center and storage yards, thereby reducing theft and out-of-stocks.
Aug 25, 2008—A Canadian utility company is employing an RFID system to track the movements of its 3,000 to 4,000 cable reels as they pass through its distribution center and nine of its storage yards before being trucked to construction sites. The RFID system, known as MOBILEFusion, is provided by AppLocation Systems, based in Victoria, B.C., Canada.
A pilot of the system was launched in January of this year, says Gary Hartwig, AppLocation's president and co-founder. The utility company, which asked not to be named, then moved forward in March with a permanent deployment at its DC and nine yards in central Canada.
The utility company first came to AppLocation in December 2007, seeking a solution to track its reels of electrical cable from the distribution center to delivery to the contract job site. The reels, varying in size from 36 inches to more than 5 feet in height, hold cable that is sold to contractors for use in construction projects. When the reels are emptied, they are returned and reused by the utility company.
Electric cables are typically stored on reels, first in a third-party distribution center, until they are shipped to a storage yard in the vicinity of the construction site where the cable will be used. Tracking inventory by paper and over the phone is challenging for such companies, because there are many players involved in purchasing and moving the cables. Sales companies representing contractors, for instance, often phone in an order and send trucks to pick up cables, while others order directly from the firm and send their own trucks or hire a freight company to retrieve the reels.
Out-of-stocks could occur when one party picked up a reel or reels that another party was expecting to retrieve. This could affect not only the utility, which loses business to competitors, but also the freight companies, salespeople and contractors, all of whom could be delayed as a result. Therefore, the utility was more likely to over-stock at the distribution center and yards to ensure out-of-stocks did not occur.
The utility company wanted the ability to track the reels, both in its distribution center and in open storage yards where reels are stacked—typically three high, in 300 by 400 meter (980 by 1,300 foot) outdoor spaces, before they are taken to the construction site. In the long term, the company intends to track the reels all the way to the construction site, using GPS technology on trucks (a feature already built into the MOBILEFusion platform). The current deployment, however, is focused simply on warehouse and yard management using RFID.
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