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Folding-Carton Manufacturer Gains Visibility With RFID

The system enables Accord Carton to view pallets loaded with its products as they move through automated robotic processes of packing, sizing, storage and order fulfillment.
By Claire Swedberg
At the end of 2012, Miles Technology installed Impinj R420 readers at three zones within the facility, says Tom O'Boyle, the RFID director at Barcoding Inc. The first is located at the end of the loading conveyor, where each fully packed and (in some situations) stretch-wrapped pallet is deposited. Every pallet's order sheet now has an Alien Technology ALN-9640 Squiggle Higgs-3 passive UHF RFID inlay incorporated into it. The tag's ID is stored in Barcoding Inc.'s RealView software residing on Accord Carton's server and linked to the specific order including the type of cartons and sizes, the quantity and the name of the customer. As the tag is read, its pallet is identified as packed and ready to be moved by an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) to the storage racking area or, if intended for immediate shipping, taken directly to the loading dock.

Barcoding Inc.'s Tom O'Boyle
Pallets headed for the racking area have another stop, where a second RFID reader is located. Before reaching the racking system, each pallet stops at the sizing station where its height and overall dimensions are determined. This is the location where staff had been visually identifying the pallet, based on the printed text on the paperwork. With RFID, the reader captures the tag ID number, and the RealView software calculates the pallet's size, based on the quantity and size of cartons and links that data to the ID.

At the entrance to the racking area, the company installed a third reader with four antennas connected to it, two to read pallets inbound to the racking system, and two to read tags on the outbound, thereby enabling the company to identify in which direction the pallet is moving, explains Raul Garcia, senior account executive at Barcoding Inc. As the pallet enters the racking area, this reader captures its tag ID, and based on that ID the RealView software forwards data related to that pallet's size to the racking system, enabling the robotic system to determine which shelf would be suitable for storing that pallet. When a loaded pallet is ready to be shipped out, the robotic system retrieves it, places it on an AGV that then transports the pallet out of the area, again past the RFID reader, updating the data to indicate it has now left the racking area.

Barcoding Inc.'s Raul Garcia
Since the RFID system was installed at the end of 2012, customers can now input a user name and password when signing into Accord Carton's server and view which products have been manufactured by inputting an order number linked to pallet IDs, thereby learning whether those cartons are in storage or have been shipped.

Codo says his company has not done any studies to determine the monetary gains they may have accomplished with the RFID system. "I don't like hanging numbers on this kind of thing," he says. Ensuring that Accord Carton has the correct data and greater visibility of pallet location, he explains, is enough justification for the solution.

Once Accord Carton installs an RFID reader at its loading dock, Codo adds that he will then have a view into when exactly pallets were loaded, and that data could easily be added to the RealView software.

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