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RFID Gets Boots on the Ground for Air Force

Wellco is using a solution from Odyssey to create passive UHF RFID labels for every pair of boots, case and pallet, and confirms shipping orders are correct by reading those tags before loading goods onto trucks.
By Claire Swedberg

The DOD contacted Wellco in early 2012 with a request to modify its existing contract for boots sold to the Air Force, by applying RFID labels to every pair of boots in the form of a hangtag, as well as affixing an RFID label to each case in which the boots are packed, and the pallets on which they are shipped. According to Mason, the company was able to implement the Odyssey solution within three months of receiving that request. The system now tracks approximately 1,200 pairs of boots shipped to the Air Force on a monthly basis.

With the RFID technology in place, Wellco's workers first log onto the Odyssey server with a password, and pull up any new contract. Based on that data, they then begin building an order.

At the end of the conveyor, a video screen confirms that the boots chosen are correct for the order being filled, and the system prompts a Zebra printer-encoder to generate an adhesive RFID label for that carton.

While the boots are assembled mostly offsite, the products undergo final manufacturing processes onsite, and are then shipped out to the Air Force. At four workstations, operators apply laces, visually confirm the size and style to match the order, and press the prompt in the Odyssey software to print and encode the labels on the Printronix printer. The workers then take those labels and attach one to each pair of boots, on its laces, after which the pairs are placed in individual boxes, with six such boxed pairs loaded into a case.

The case passes down a conveyor, where a laser sensor identifies its arrival and awakens an Alien reader. The reader then captures the tag ID numbers of all six pairs of boots and forwards those IDs to the software, which confirms that the footwear is appropriate for that order. In the event of an error, an alert is displayed on a screen mounted at the end of the conveyor.

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