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Toll Global Logistics Expects RFID to Provide Significant Savings
The company is using EPC tags and S3Edge software to automate the tracking of products at its Singapore facility.
Apr 22, 2010—Toll Global Logistics, one of Asia's largest logistics providers, is using a radio frequency identification at its Singapore facility to track goods received, stored and shipped from there, with the goal of providing an accurate view into the location of their products via Internet-based software. Although the system has only been in place for three months, based on studies done before the installation, the system has the potential to save significant manpower, says James Chan Chok Kiong, Toll Global Logistics' general manager of innovation, technology and operations development.
The company ships and stores its customers products in a number of countries, including Thailand, Korea, China and Australia.
The key goals for the company were to reduce labor hours by phasing out manual methods of tracking shipments, gaining visibility; and sharing that visibility with its customers.
The company wanted an automated software solution that would work on the Microsoft platform, and so selected S3Edge's Spotlight solution, which uses Microsoft BizTalk RFID. The result is what Toll Global Logistics calls the RFID Enterprise Applications Platform (REAP).
For the first phase, all of the location's 150,000 pallets were tagged with Gen 2 UHF passive RFID tags with a unique ID number. When the products arrived, the staff use a Motorola MC9090-G RFID handheld device to scan the bar code on the boxes, then read the RFID tag on the pallet on which they were loaded. The bar-code and RFID data are then linked and sent to the back-end BizTalk server via a Wi-Fi connection, where S3edge software stores the data and makes it available to users.
The staff brings the pallets through a fixed RFID reader portal, which sends data to the back-end system indicating that the products have been received into the warehouse. Forklifts themselves are equipped with RFID interrogators that read the pallet tags as well as tags that were embedded at the entrance to several zones within the warehouse. The forklift interrogators send data to the back-end system via a Wi-Fi connection, indicating which specific forklift has now taken the pallets to a specific zone of the warehouse. RFID tags are also attached to warehouse shelves. When the forklift reader puts the pallet away, it reads not only of the tag of the pallet tag but also of the shelf on which it is being loaded so that the location of the pallet and its load can be updated to the system, explains Anush Kumar, S3Edge's CTO and VP business development.
One of the benefits of the system thus far is improved accuracy, says Chan. Although the company used a paper-based and bar-coding solution, it was still prone to human error. Those problems are being eliminated with the S3Edge system, says Kelvin Tan, Toll Global Logistic's technology development manager for innovation, technology and operations development. In addition, says Tan, the system provides automated data that eliminates a gap that had plagued the company in the past—a gap in visibility between the time the items were received or put away and the time when the data was input into the system. "So the most powerful thing for us now is with true real time, the system allows us to breakdown our processes and see the performance of each," he says.
Although the system currently is accessed only by Toll Global Logistics staff, the company intends to make it available to customers for a fee, as an added service that their competitors do not provide.
It is still too early to measure the benefits of the system, Tan says. However, prior to implementation, the company completed a value study of labor hours spent using RFID-tagged pallets as opposed to tradition method with bar codes or manual recording of IDs. It determined that the system, by eliminating the need for manually writing serial number or scanning bar codes, could save about six minutes per pallet, resulting in a total of 625 man-days saved annually.
"When we look back in about one year, we will do a review," Tan says.
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