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BLG Logistics Hopes to Save Labor and Fuel by Tagging Rolltrailers

The worldwide logistics company is deploying a pilot system involving EPC Gen 2 RFID and GPS technologies to track the trailers' locations at a seaport terminal in Bremerhaven, Germany.
By Rhea Wessel
Nov 09, 2010BLG Logistics, a worldwide logistics firm, is implementing a pilot that employs EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags and GPS technology to track the locations of rolltrailers at a seaport terminal it operates in Bremerhaven, Germany. The rolltrailers are loaded with heavy, odd-sized and extra-large equipment or machinery, such as locomotives, yachts or building material. Special tug vehicles equipped with heavy-duty engines are used to move the trailers onto and off of roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and then to tow them ashore to a storage yard or a loading area for overland transport of the trailers' cargo.

Wolf Lampe, BLG Logistics' director of innovative seaport technologies, and Anne Schweizer, a researcher at the Bremer Institute for Production and Logistics (BIBA), a scientific and engineering research institute at the University of Bremen, told attendees at last week's RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2010 conference that terminal personnel often spend excess time and burn fuel unnecessarily while attempting to locate a particular rolltrailer in the yard.

At any given time, BLG stores some 1,000 rolltrailers at its Bremerhaven terminal.

At any given time, some 1,000 rolltrailers circulate in the Bremerhaven terminal, and are stored in a yard 3 square kilometers (1.2 square miles) in size. When not loaded with cargo, the rolltrailers are stored one on top of another. Each year, BLG handles up to 60,000 rolltrailers that move into and out of the terminal aboard ships arriving from and departing to ports worldwide. The trailers are never utilized to carry equipment outside of the shipping terminal except on ships, since they are not approved for use on public streets.

Supported, in part, by a grant for innovative seaport technologies from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), BLG Logistics began working with BIBA to jointly develop the yard-tracking system. The two partners, which launched the project in late 2008, are currently running tests on one reader and 10 RFID tags, with plans to commence a pilot in early 2011, once the proprietary software (which has been designed and defined) is fully developed.

BLG Logistics' Wolf Lampe
From the project's onset, BLG ruled out a solution based on bar-coded labels and scanners. "We wanted automatic identification," Lampe explained, "because of the rugged industrial environment, and to reduce data-entry errors."

The system that BLG and BIBA are testing combines RFID with GPS to record where the rolltrailers—which are owned by shipping companies—are stored within the yard. At present, all tracking is performed manually—that is, workers jot down each trailer's ID number and yard location, using pen and paper.

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