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Thai Coal Importer Weighs RFID's Benefits

SCG Logistics is using an active RFID solution to track the weight of trucks before and after they load up with coal at a port facility in Thailand.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 11, 2010SCG Logistics Management Co., a logistics and transportation firm based in Thailand's Ayuthaya province, has deployed an RFID system at its coal import operations, to track the amount of coal being loaded onto trucks. After using the system for one year, the company has found that wait times are reduced and billing is more accurate, based on automating what was previously a labor-intensive system of tracking the weights of trucks and the coal loaded within them. To date, SGC reports, the system has reduced the operation time of weighbridge employees by 30 to 40 percent.

The company sells imported coal to third-party firms. These firms send trucks to SCG's depot, located at the port at which the coal arrives from Indonesia and China, which load up on coal and then deliver the cargo to their own locations throughout the country. Weighing trucks is an essential part of a coal importer's business, which bases the billing of those who purchase its coal on the weight of that product as it leaves the facility. To obtain a record of the amount of coal being retrieved, each arriving truck parks on a weighbridge to measure its tare (the empty truck's weight prior to its being loaded with coal).


Wirote Ngamsukkasamesri, general manager of Identify RFID
Without an RFID system, the driver shows the scale operators a form known as a loading document, and the weigh station's employees record the weight and the truck license plate number for their own records, by keying the numbers into a PC. The truck then enters the facility, is loaded with coal and returns to the weighbridge for a post-load measurement. The weigh station's staff again manually keys the truck's plate number into the weighing program in the company's back-end system. The workers then print out paperwork indicating that weight on a loading document, which is provided to the driver. The weight data is also stored in the company's back-end system.

The manual system's greatest shortcoming, the company reports, is the labor required: Workers must examine plates and rekey truck plate numbers every time a vehicle enters or exits the facility. What's more, if the incorrect license plate number is provided to the staff, at the time that the truck either arrives or leaves, billing is thus inaccurate—or, in some cases, if the data is fraudulent (for example, if the truck's license plate number is invalid), billing is not even possible. Failing to properly identify the trucks can result in the inability "to ensure that the truck that arrives for pre- and post-load is the same one," says Wirote Ngamsukkasamesri, the general manager of Identify Ltd. (Identify RFID), a Thai systems integrator that provided the RFID solution. SCG Logistics did not respond to requests for comment.

Other technology solutions offered limited value. CCTV cameras at the scale, for instance, could capture plate numbers, but relying on video coverage would also be time-consuming for staff members who must review the tape each day. On the other hand, RFID promised to increase both efficiency and accuracy. "When a truck with a tag permanently attached to it arrives at the weighbridge, its plate number will automatically show on the program," Ngamsukkasamesri explains.

USER COMMENTS

Tal Eizenberg 2010-03-14 06:07:30 AM
Why Active Thanks for an excellent story Claire. One detail is confusing though: Why did the customer chose to use an Active RFID system with 30ft range? You can find Passive RFID Gen 2 tags that would deliver the same performance and with a weight station that forces the truck to stand in a very specific location, passive could have been used in a reliable way. I recently read that Precyse Technologies introduced an Active solution that integrates the tag with electronic weights so that everything is automatically transmitted. I know this is typically being used for KanBan part-bin refurbishment on production lines but maybe its relevant here as well. These tags has 1 mile of range so at least the cost of readers is reduced. Just a thought… Tal.

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