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IP Taps Matrics for RFID Tags

International Paper signs an agreement to purchase at least 10 million tags as part of its plans to roll out an RFID system to its warehouses.
By Jennifer Maselli
Dec 19, 2003 International Paper, the world's largest paper and forest products company, has agreed to purchase at least 10 million RFID tags from Matrics, a Columbia, Md., RFID technology provider. The tags will be used to track rolls of paper as IP rolls out its fully automated RFID Warehouse Tracking System (WTS) to most of its mills and warehouses.
IP's Gutierrez

Under the terms of the two-year agreement, International Paper will purchase Matrics passive UHF (915MHz) tags that are based on the Class 0 Electronic Product Code (EPC) specification developed by the Auto-ID Center. International Paper plans to roll out the WTS to most of its U.S. mills over the next three years.

Each mill will use approximately 1 million tags, according to Guillermo Gutierrez, International Paper’s marketing manager. “We have created systems that deliver value for our use, and we’re going to continue deploying them where it makes sense,” he says.

In July, International Paper went live with its WTS system at its Texarkana mill and warehouse (see IP Unveils RFID Enabled Warehouse). It took International Paper six to nine months to integrate the Matrics tags into its custom-built WTS solution. The WTS allows the paper manufacturer to locate product within six inches of its location.

A tag is inserted into the middle of each paper roll, which can be as thick as 72 inches in radius. A reader mounted on a forklift identifies the roll it is carrying. That information is transmitted via an onboard wireless computer to warehouse management software. The software transmits to the forklift-mounted computer terminal the precise location where the roll should be stored or which shipping bay it should be brought to.

IP has developed an system that also tracks the movement of forklifts within a facility. If a forklift driver delivers a roll to a different door than the one the system designated, the system automatically recognizes the error and alerts the driver. The driver is asked if he wants to change the location. If the driver deliberately brought the roll to a different location, he can chose from a list of reasons provided by the system. The choice is recorded and the new location information is transmitted to the warehouse management system so the roll can be found later.

The system reduces the amount of time it takes to locate rolls, and it improves customer service because International Paper is able to confirm that it delivered the grade of paper ordered. It also enables warehouse managers to better manage the movement of goods throughout the warehouse.

Prior to implementing the technology, IP was using a bar code system to identify rolls of paper. But bar codes often got damaged or ripped off as rolls were moved in the warehouse, making it difficult to determine the grade of paper. And forklift operators sometimes had to scan as many as four bar codes per roll to identify roll, quality of paper, lot and so on.

The company decided to choose an RFID-technology that was based on EPC standards. “We settled on EPC because we didn’t want a proprietary warehouse solution,” says Guituerrez.

International Paper is offering design and consulting services to customers interested in deploying technology based on the WTS (see IP Offers RFID Integration Services). By using EPC technology, which is being supported by Wal-Mart and other major companies, the paper company is creating a solution that can be marketed not just to the paper industry, but to other companies looking for warehouse tracking technology.

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