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How Can We Track Trucks?

Posted By RFID Journal, 05.17.2010
I work at a company that operates major fueling plants. We serve thousands of truck drivers. Switching products is a major safety concern that could lead to an explosion. My question is this: Which RFID system could be used to identify trucks and interface with SAP software, as well as our own terminal-management system (TMS)?

— Haroon, Saudi Arabia

———
Dear Haroon,

There are many active (battery-powered) RFID systems that can identify trucks. In some cases, an RFID system provider will have an application programming interface (API) that can allow data to be sent to and from your SAP applications. If your terminal-management system was developed in-house, or is uncommon, it is likely no API will exist, and that one will have to be written, or some other data-sharing mechanism must be set up. This is usually not very challenging.

Azucarera Ebro, a leading sugar manufacturer in Spain, and part of the British Sugar Group—the second largest sugar producer in the world—is employing radio frequency identification to gain better visibility into, and control over, its operations at a refinery in the Guadalete region of southern Spain. The new system has reduced the amount of paperwork that truck drivers coming into and out of the refinery must manage, and also makes their movements more efficient.

Previously, a truck driver went through manual steps that would serve to identify that individual and his vehicle, as well as track the loads the truck carried into and out of the refinery. But by using RFID, these steps have been automated and streamlined. The unique ID number in the active transponder is associated with the order information in Azucarera's warehouse-management software, part of its SAP enterprise software platform (see RFID Keeps Sweet Stuff Rolling at Spanish Refinery).

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.

For each truck that enters its facility, SCG Logistics issues an active 2.45 GHz RFID tag that attaches to the vehicle's windshield. The tag's unique ID number is linked to data entered into SCG Logistics' back-end system, such as the license plate number. When a truck parks on one of the company's three weighbridges for its pre-load (truck weight), RFID readers at the gate capture its tag's ID number at a distance of up to 10 meters (33 feet), and transmits that information, via a cabled connection, to the Web-based server, which integrates with the company's SAP system. Weighbridge workers can then see the license number and other information on their PC screen. The truck driver hands the weighbridge staff the loading document, which they can compare against information on the PC. The scale measures the weight, which is linked with the RFID number and associated vehicle data in the back-end system (see Thai Coal Importer Weighs RFID's Benefits).

ABB, a global manufacturer of power and automation equipment for utility and industrial companies, is employing RFID at its factory in Helsinki, Finland, to better track approximately 200,000 outbound shipments per year. ABB implemented the RFID system in order to reduce shipping errors, since such mistakes impact its invoicing process. Without a shipping receipt, the company cannot collect the funds it is owed. RFID readers installed at ABB's loading platforms are used to verify that the correct products are loaded onto trucks. To meet this goal, the firm designed an RFID system to replace its manual shipping processes, thereby enabling it to reduce outbound shipping errors. The company launched its RFID implementation in 2006, used the system in production by 2007, and completed the integration of the technology with its existing SAP system in mid-2009 (see RFID Drives Up Efficiencies at ABB).

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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