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Kimberly-Clark Expedites Logistics at Colombian Plant

The consumer goods manufacturer is using a solution that includes EPC tags and readers to track the arrival, loading and departure of trucks transporting the company's goods throughout Colombia.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 29, 2011One year after installing a radio frequency identification system to better manage the operations of logistics providers at its warehouse, Kimberly-Clark's plant in Tocancipa, Colombia, finds that it has gained efficiency, as well as visibility into when truck-loading delays occur. The factory is employing the technology to manage the shipment of goods by the transport companies, which are responsible for picking up and delivering products to customers. K-C Colombia shares that data with those transport businesses, thereby providing them with improved information regarding the status of the loads that their drivers pick up and deliver. In this way, the logistics providers benefit by being forewarned of any delays, and can thus schedule their trucks accordingly.

The Tocancipa plant provides products that leave the facility at a rate of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 truckloads monthly, and are transported throughout Colombia. "The problem we had," says Ana Maria Gonzalez, who works for Kimberly-Clark Colombia as an analyst of logistics development, "was that the logistics representatives didn't have a clear visual of which trucks were available to be assigned to a shipment, or which trucks were already loading products." Once a truck departed for the K-C plant's warehouse, the transport companies had no knowledge of how long the trucks had remained at that warehouse, or when there was a delay. Consequently, they experienced numerous setbacks in their own deliveries to customers.

In a waiting room within Kimberly-Clark's warehouse, an RFID antenna mounted on the wall near the doorway tracks each driver's arrival and departure times.

To improve its control of and visibility into this logistics process, the factory deployed the RFID Tracking System software solution from AutoID Systems, based in Bogotá. The plant also installed ThingMagic readers at the facility gate, as well as in the driver waiting area, and began issuing driver ID cards containing EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) inlays.

The ID cards are created by means of a Zebra Technologies RFID card printer-encoder. Upon being entered into the system, each driver provides his name and company name, which are stored in the standalone AutoID Systems software, residing on K-C's back-end server. Other information is also stored on that server, such as a particular truck's size, which helps the company track how long the loading process is expected to last. The unique ID number encoded to the card's RFID inlay is then linked to that driver's data. To date, Kimberly-Clark has provided the RFID-enabled ID cards to approximately 300 drivers.

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