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Coster Group Boosts Logistics Efficiency

The Italian packaging-components manufacturer is installing a UHF RFID system at all of its production and distribution facilities, to help track the location and status of products as they are produced, stored and shipped.
By Claire Swedberg

At the end of the production line, a Coster worker encodes an EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tag via a Datamax-O'Neil RFID printer-encoder. He or she then attaches the tag to a carton in which the products are loaded. The tag's ID number is entered into the system using Aton's onID middleware, which is integrated with the company's existing Oracle JD Edwards OneWork ERP management system, says Germano Rizzo, Aton's R&D architect of RFID systems.

A record of each carton and its products is then stored in the system, along with that tag's unique ID. When the carton is placed on a pallet containing similar tagged boxes and moved into storage, a worker utilizes a handheld reader to indicate where the pallet of cartons was placed. Later, a staff member uses a pick list on an onboard forklift computer to identify which goods need to be picked, and where they were stored. The cartons then pass through an RFID reader portal en route to the dock doors, where they are loaded onto a truck. In the event of a discrepancy between what was ordered and what was being loaded, the Coster software issues an alert to authorized personnel, enabling them to correct the mistake before the truck leaves the plant. The software is then updated to indicate which items have been shipped, and to whom.

Aton's Germano Rizzo

To date, the company has installed 17 tag printers at Plant 1, one at the end of each production line. The onID software launches the RFID tag writing and verification read of that tag, at the point at which the tag is encoded on a Datamax-O'Neil 4212 RFID printer-encoder.

The solution comprises a variety of handheld reader and tag makes and models, Rizzo says, which he declines to identify. "We tested different reading devices during the pilot and installation, and ended up with different viable solutions, all equally effective."

According to Ricca, the system provides dramatic improvements in inventory time that personnel previously spent searching for products in order to determine where they were located, or if they had been shipped. Based on Plant 1's efficiency improvements, the company is now expanding the system to its other plants, as well as three DCs, where employees equipped with handheld readers will also be able to interrogate tag IDs and indicate when goods were received and shipped from those locations.

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