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Online Grocer Tracks Orders Via RFID

Spanish company Tudespensa.com can ensure that goods picked and loaded with an automated system are delivered properly, by reading RFID tags on the totes in which those items are packed, using technology from RFID Dipole.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 14, 2012Tudespensa.com (Your Pantry), a Spanish online supermarket, delivers food, household cleaning supplies, toiletries and other products to customers throughout Spain, from its central warehouse located in Madrid. To ensure that the high volume of goods are delivered quickly, and at the scheduled time and place, its warehouse employs radio frequency identification to help it load ordered goods into the proper delivery vehicle and in the correct sequence, according to Jose Vicente Caballero, the logistics manager of DLR, a provider of controlled temperature-storage and order-picking services. The solution, supplied by RFID Dipole, includes passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags affixed to reusable totes that travel to customers, as well as to suppliers, that are tracked via readers at the dock doors. Dipole's RFID software suite collects and stores read data on Tudespensa's database, and shares that information with the company's Microsoft Navision enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Spanish customers who lack the time or transportation to shop can order goods online. Tudespensa will then deliver the ordered items in cooled vans within 24 hours, if so requested by a customer.

Tudespensa installed Impinj RFID readers and antennas at each of its dock doors, to read the tags on its totes as they are shipped out or returned.

Tudespensa's warehouse manages two types of orders: normal flow and tense flow. Normal flow consists of groceries, as well as beauty and cleaning products, stored within the company's warehouse. Tense flow products include fresh goods—such as fruit, meat, fish and vegetables—that are received by the warehouse on a daily basis and are very quickly loaded directly into customers' orders. The products arrive from suppliers in Tudespensa's plastic totes, which are typically unpacked, and are then repacked with goods for customer orders, after which the reloaded tote is transported to the customer's door and back to Tudespensa.

Customers place their shopping orders on Tudespensa's Web site, choosing a delivery time for the order within the 24-hour period. The firm's dispatching staff categorizes the orders according to delivery time and geographic location, and then assigns them to delivery vans, to be loaded in a specific sequence that follows the delivery route. In this way, drivers can simply remove each order from the back of the vehicle, rather than having to search for the correct goods at every delivery point.

When an order is placed, the company orders its "tense" items, such as fresh fruit or meats, while automated equipment begins picking goods already stocked (normal flow items) and placing them in plastic totes on dollies, in an automatic process known as "dolletyzing." The entire process takes place under controlled temperature, Caballero explains.


Andrew Curtis 2013-12-04 11:51:44 AM
RFID technology provides distributors with increased throughput, reduced error, more strategic logistics and, as evident in this case, better customer service. All of these factors create shorter lead times from warehouse to customer for Tudespensa. As RFID technology improvements drive down costs, more firms will begin to use it. For now, retailers such as Tudespensa have a competitive advantage over physical storefronts and other home deliveries that do not use RFID. Tudespensa will have to closely monitor and respond to patterns to usurp the largest portion of the market possible—the detailed data that RFID provides will help them in this endeavor. Within the company, Tudespensa must fine-tune its operations. For example, the tense flow products require Tudespensa make accurate forecasts for fresh items. The RFID technology will continue to provide the grocer with data to help them stay on top of trends for the more time-sensitive products. The deliver model implemented by the grocer makes sense for more densely populated areas, such as Europe, where shoppers have more difficulty arriving at a brick-and-mortar and transporting their food home. This model could succeed in urban areas of the U.S., but probably only those where a large percentage of the population does not drive.

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