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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

Johnston says Air Canada Cargo looks forward to implementing a system of nine unique alerts that would notify local managers and agents at each station in the event that an error may be imminent. For instance, if a package is loaded into a container destined for the wrong part of the world, an e-mail or text message would be sent to the local manager. In the future, she adds, video screens might be installed at some stations to display alerts for workers onsite as well. In another scenario, containers transporting animals, such as dogs or cats, could be flagged as being especially sensitive to delays, so that if the software determines that an animal has been at a specific location—a dock door, for instance—beyond a maximum acceptable period of time (such as 30 minutes), an alert could be issued.

Because workers have traditionally used pen and paper to document the loading of packages into containers or onto pallets, and have input that data manually, the RFID system is likely to save them time as well. "It's premature to say we have seen labor efficiencies, but that's what we expect," Johnston says. With the manual process, workers place a box in a container, write down the air waybill number printed on the box label, and then pick up the next one. The RFID-enabled version requires that an employee simply put the box into the container. "So we know we're going to see process improvements," Johnston states.

Air Canada Cargo's Barb Johnston
"With every manual process," Morey notes, "you're introducing the possibility of error." In contrast, he says, the RFID technology automatically captures every movement, links it to the tagged object and stores that data on Air Canada Cargo's server, so that users can view the relevant details as needed. This requires that the software perform a lot of filtering, he adds, since tag reads take place at a rate of three times per second. The solution is set up to update the Unisys system only when it detects that a package has moved to a different location, such as when it is placed into a container.

Air Canada Cargo has already been providing data for shippers and freight forwarders regarding the status of shipments, Johnston says, based on manually input or bar-code-scanned data. But with the deployment of the CargoAware system, she adds, the information will become much more accurate, since as soon as a tag is interrogated at a hub or other station, that read event can be sent to the Unisys system, which will then display that data for authorized parties to view.

If freight forwarders implement RFID as well, Johnston says, Air Canada Cargo hopes to be able to access those companies' RFID-related data, such as when a package has left a facility and is headed for an Air Canada Cargo station. In fact, Nicometo says, Franwell is currently in discussions with some freight forwarders about deploying the technology as well.

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