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Can Lumber Be Tracked With RFID?
A friend of mine owns a wood warehouse. How can he check the pallets or logs that leave his premises automatically? He wants a device on his trucks that can read all goods leaving his facility.
It is certainly possible to tag pallets and lumber, and to place a reader on a forklift truck to identify every single pallet and log leaving a facility. But there are a couple of things to consider.
First and foremost, he'll need to think about the nature of the problem he wants to solve, or the benefit he wants to gain. Spending money on an RFID system—or any solution, for that matter—doesn't make sense unless that system makes the company money, or saves it more than the system costs. If some goods are being shipped and not billed for, will the amount recovered from using RFID to know exactly what was shipped offset the system's cost?
The second issue to consider is the ability to read tags consistently. Ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) systems operate at a frequency at which radio waves are absorbed by water. Fresh lumber usually has a high water content, which means special tags might be required to ensure that they can capture sufficient energy to send back a signal to the RFID reader. The tags' location on the pallet or individual logs is critical to achieving a high read rate, as is the set-up of the forklift reader. Your friend will need an experienced systems integrator to accomplish this.
Another issue to consider is whether your friend's warehouse has existing infrastructure that can be leveraged for the RFID system. Is there a wireless network that would enable data captured by readers on the forklift truck to be sent to back-end systems, and is there a back-end inventory-management system that can use the data from the RFID system to reduce misshipments and other problems?
If your friend would like to discuss this in more detail, he can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to talk about his project over the phone.
—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal
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