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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.
Mar 11, 2010—SCG 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).
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.
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