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Penske Logistics to Use RFID to Manage Yard Workflow

At a manufacturing facility in Texas, the company is deploying a system provided by Fluensee to track the locations of trailers filled with material, and to expedite the unloading of their contents.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 22, 2009Penske Logistics, a division of transportation and distribution services provider Penske, is installing a passive RFID and GPS system to track the locations and movements of trailers in the yard of a customer's manufacturing facility in Texas.

The manufacturer employs Penske Logistics' services to manage freight movement around the facility yard, thus ensuring that the average 100 trailers arriving daily, filled with materials for the products the firm makes, can be located and unloaded at the appropriate time. The wireless tracking system, provided by Fluensee, is slated to go live in November 2009, according to Chuck Papa, Penske Logistics' VP of strategic value. If it is found to be successful after several months, he says, the company may offer the service at some of its other customer locations throughout the country.

Initially, Penske Logistics is deploying this first system to test the effectiveness of tracking hundreds of trailers with RFID tags, rather than manually.

The challenge related to manual tracking of trailers is time. After trailers arrive and are manually checked in by a gate guard, they are often parked somewhere in the yard—which includes 250 trailer parking spaces and 30 dock doors. As such, the warehouse managers often do not know when or if a particular trailer has arrived until several hours or a day later, and employees may need to drive around the site in order to locate it. Valuable time can be lost if the material needed can not be accessed immediately. In addition, a trailer's owner may charge the manufacturer a retention fee for the time that trailer sits in the yard. Manufacturers—or their third-party-logistics providers—typically track the locations of trailers and the freight they contain with spreadsheets alone.

"The business problem, when managing hundreds of trailers received each day, is the challenge of knowing what is in the yard, where and what is in the truck," says Chris Brumett, Fluensee's COO. Fluensee is providing a solution with a system that deploys RFID interrogators at the gate, as well as on switchers—trucks that pick up and move trailers around the facility.

Once the system is in place, a fixed Motorola reader installed at the gate will capture the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID tag ID number on a tag attached to the trailer. In the case of dedicated trailers, which continually come from the same supplier and carry the same supplies, a tag will be permanently attached to the trailer. For other suppliers delivering for the first time, or that deliver in a multitude of trailers, a tag will be supplied to the driver when he enters, and the gate guard will input data about the shipment into the Fluensee software system residing on Penske's management database.

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