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Can RFID Be Used to Track Containers in a Yard?

Posted By RFID Journal, 07.29.2010
Is yard management an application of radio frequency identification technology?

—Name withheld

———
Yes, yard management is one of the technology's main applications.

A.S. Shipping Agencies, a container freight-station operator based in Chennai, India, is combining RFID with GPS and GPRS technologies to track containers throughout its storage yard, located 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Port of Chennai. The company, which is part of the Greenways Group, claims it is the first in India to deploy a real-time container-tracking and -monitoring system, and indicates it has reduced the time its workers spent searching for containers from as much as 24 hours to just a few minutes (see Chennai Container Yard Finds RFID Sharply Boosts Productivity).

China International Marine Containers (CIMC), a worldwide supplier of containers to the shipping industry, manufactures more than 1 million dry-freight containers for clients across the globe. The firm operates 20 factories, and stores containers at 40 different yards throughout China before delivering them to clients. For years, CIMC's inventory-tracking process was very labor-intensive. Employees used a mix of optical character recognition (OCR) technology, paper, pens, walkie-talkies and binoculars in its container yards, in order to determine products' whereabouts. This system caused inefficiencies and waste—in fact, the company often did not know the exact locations of its containers, and in some cases, it lost them or delivered the wrong ones to its customers. In an effort to lower costs and improve operations, CIMC deployed RFID to track containers from the factory to the storage yard (see RFID Contains Solution to Chinese Shipping Problems).

Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), a marine transportation and logistics firm, has employed RFID technology provided by Mojix to tracks tools, equipment, food and other consumable supplies as they are transported to, and returned from, offshore oil rigs. The system is intended to provide a more efficient, reliable delivery of goods to oil drillers in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as reduce costs by making the location and status of rented equipment—such as pipes, valves or generators—available in real time. In that way, for example, if a piece of equipment returns from an offshore rig, Edison Chouest Offshore knows about it right away and can return the items before incurring excess charges. Dane Vizier, the general manager of the firm's C-Logistics division, outlined the system to an audience at Journal LIVE! 2010, which was held in Orlando, Fla., on Apr. 14-16 (see RFID Saves Oil Companies Time and Money).

Penske Logistics, a division of transportation and distribution services provider Penske Corp., uses a passive RFID and GPS system to track the locations and movements of trailers in the yard of a customer's manufacturing facility in Texas. The manufacturer employs Penske Logistics' services to manage freight movement around the facility yard, thus ensuring that the average 100 trailers arriving daily, filled with materials for the products the firm produces, can be located and unloaded at the appropriate time (see Penske Logistics to Use RFID to Manage Yard Workflow).

And NYK Logistics implemented a real-time locating system (RTLS) in 2003 at its Long Beach facility. The system utilizes battery-powered RFID tags to track the locations of assets within its yard. Now, the firm knows exactly where each trailer is parked, and can locate containers to within 10 feet. The system has reduced expenses and increased operational efficiency in numerous ways, including slashing the average turn time—the amount of time that a trailer stays in the yard—by 20 to 40 percent (see Logistics Gets Cheaper by the Yard).

There are many other stories on our Web site about how RFID can improve yard management.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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