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RFID Delivers Benefits to Air Canada Cargo

The freight services company is deploying Franwell's CargoAware solution to track shipments as they move through its five hubs and larger cargo-transfer stations around the world.
By Claire Swedberg
May 31, 2016

Air Canada Cargo is in the process of deploying an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution to manage shipments as they move through its five hubs, or when they enter or leave one of the larger cargo-transfer stations it operates around the world.

Air Canada is Canada's biggest air cargo services provider, and most of its customers are large freight-forwarding companies and businesses that transport their products via expedited air service rather than aboard land vehicles. Approximately 10 years ago, Franwell approached Air Canada Cargo, looking to use the firm as a live laboratory for the testing of a radio frequency identification system to track the movements of cargo automatically. The cargo service provider has since spent several years testing and developing the technology, and is now deploying it across many of its stations.

At Air Canada Cargo's five hubs, Echo RFID antennas installed on the ceilings identify the movements of RFID-tagged containers known as universal loading devices.
With the CargoAware system Franwell has developed, Air Canada Cargo expects to increase its shipment visibility, reduce the incidence of human errors, improve its use of resources and better support e-commerce initiatives related to tracking the receiving, packing and shipping of packages at its many stations around the world, says Barb Johnston, Air Canada Cargo's manager of operational technology.

About a decade ago, Franwell, together with researchers from the University of Florida, approached Air Canada Cargo. "They were starting to dabble with the technology and approached us about it," Johnston recalls. "We said, 'Sure, you can play in our backyard,' but it has evolved dramatically from there, and quite quickly.'"

The project started with a proof-of-concept, says Michael Morey, who was Air Canada Cargo's director of cargo operations prior to retiring last year. Morey now serves as the advanced cargo solutions director at Franwell, where he works to supply solutions for the cargo industry, including Air Canada Cargo, with the CargoAware RFID technology. Fixed overhead and doorway portal RFID readers were installed at Air Canada Cargo's facilities in Montreal, London-Heathrow and Frankfurt, and tagged parcels were then tracked as they flowed through those stations. Readers forwarded data to a central server running the CargoAware software, via a Wi-Fi connection.

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