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Swiss Food Co-op Deploys RFID to Automate Shipment Tracking

Thanks to RFID tags attached to returnable containers, Migros' East Switzerland regional cooperative knows which refrigerated goods are being loaded onto which truck, and can intervene if a mistake is being made, while stores can also access that data to check the status of their orders.
By Claire Swedberg

If an incorrect pallet is being loaded onto a truck, the forklift driver views a red light on the gate and a warning message on his or her onboard computer screen. In addition, an audible signal warns the driver that he or she is making a mistake.

Each of Migros Ostschweiz's delivery trucks also has a passive UHF RFID tag attached to it. The vehicle tag's unique ID number is linked, in the EPCIS software, to the loading list for each store to which it delivers goods. As a truck backs into the dock, the Speedway Revolution reader installed at that location captures the vehicle's tag ID and forwards that data to the Visibility Manager software, to determine whether the truck has pulled into the correct spot, as well as document the time of day when the vehicle arrived.

As forklift drivers load pallets stacked with RTIs onto trucks, Impinj Speedway readers and antennas installed overhead capture the IDs of the tags attached to the RTIs, as well as the forklift trucks.
If the truck is in the wrong dock, Migros' warehouse-management system is alerted, which can then direct reports to the necessary personnel. The system was taken live in January 2014, and has since boosted efficiency and accuracy, by preventing any loading errors.

What's more, the system provides valuable information related to what has been shipped to a store, as well as when this occurred. For instance, since some busier stores receive up to eight shipments daily, it was not always clear how many of those deliveries have been completed at any given time, and what the deliveries contained. If a store finds that it has run out of fish and knows fish was on that day's order, Virkkunen says, store managers can log into the system and view whether that fish was already shipped to the store earlier in the day, and thus has been sold out and must be reordered. Management can also determine if the order is still either at the warehouse or in transit, meaning replenishment is imminent. RFID was implemented first at the cold warehouse, Balmer reports, since all of its processes use Migros RTIs, which were already permanently RFID-tagged.

About 1,500 of the daily 6,000 pallets are already covered by the LUIDO RFID system. However, some of the 4,500 RTIs used for shipping non-refrigerated merchandise do not belong to the MGB, and thus are not yet RFID-tagged. "For these processes, certain source-tagging mechanisms have to be implemented, which poses a challenge outside of the actual loading process," Balmer says. He adds that these source-tagging mechanisms—by which tags are permanently attached to the RTIs—will be further tested before the technology is introduced to the non-cooled shipping process.

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