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Chennai Container Yard Finds RFID Sharply Boosts Productivity
A.S. Shipping Agencies applies reusable EPC Gen 2 passive tags to shipping containers, enabling the firm to track the location of freight throughout its 60-acre yard.
Oct 01, 2009—A.S. Shipping Agencies, a container freight station operator based in Chennai, India, is combining radio frequency identification with GPS and GPRS technologies to track containers throughout its storage yard, located 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Port of Chennai. The company, which is part of the Greenways Group, claims it is the first in India to deploy a real-time container tracking and monitoring system, and indicates it has reduced the time spent searching for containers from as much as 24 hours to just a few minutes.
According to Karan Thakkar, A.S Shipping's import executive, it was becoming increasingly difficult to manually locate containers, because the freight station covers almost 60 acres. The containers were stacked up to seven high, and remained at the yard for an average of seven days. They could be moved many times and, after multiple movements, could be far from their original position.
"We had tried a couple of systems, one of which was a touch-screen system," Thakkar says. "In this system, crane operators were given a small touch-screen device, and would enter the container number and the position of the container. When the container was repositioned, he would again need to enter the container number and the new position. The crane operator took almost two minutes to make entries, and at peak hours—when up to 150 containers would come in—the operator would lose a lot of time making entries. Also, when the bottom container was delivered, the container above would have to be repositioned, and the crane operator would have to reenter the position details. This was sometimes missed because of work pressures."
Some customs officials, Sukhwal says, recommended smaller container freight stations due to the ease in locating containers.
A.S Shipping approached a number of providers to demonstrate an automatic tracking solution. N-NET Technologies, Thakkar says, devised a cost-effective solution that would require that the container number and RFID tag number be entered just once, after which the container position would automatically update following every movement.
The system requires RFID interrogators and antennas, as well as GPS receivers, to be mounted on cranes. N-NET Technologies' director, Chetan Sukhwal, says extensive lab-testing was conducted before rollout, to address such issues as protection from vibration, mechanical shock and power fluctuations caused during the crane's operation, the ability to send data over longer cable lengths (as the system was to be mounted at different locations on the crane), and the need to shield cables to prevent interference from external RF noise.
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