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RFID Automates Invoice Data for Bulk Storage Facility

MSC Distribution has reduced labor costs related to inventory tracking and has also improved invoice accuracy, with an automated RFID system from Advanced Mobile Group that tracks when goods are moved into and out of storage.
By Claire Swedberg

The solution is a UHF RFID system using AMG's ViziTrace technology and Zebra Technologies readers, says Steve Weiss, AMG's project leader. Initially, AMG worked with MSC to determine how the technology could reduce the amount of time employees spent searching for goods, as well as labor related to calculating invoices. MSC wanted to be able to track not only large containers, but also small ones that may be mixed in with large pallet loads.

Before undertaking any installation, Weiss says, "We need to understand how we can improve their business." Facilities such as the one operated by MSC Distribution, he explains, "have a wide variety of goods to track," which can include sacks, drums, barrels and square wooden containers. MSC needed to tag every item, no matter the form factor, and to ensure that each tag could be interrogated while passing through RFID reader portals.

Antennas enable the readers to identify the direction in which goods are being transported.
AMG developed a process to print and encode the tags (which were provided by a variety of vendors) onsite, and to then place a tag on each item. That included identifying a tag that could hang on metal, such as stainless steel drums, as well as other tags that could be affixed directly onto other containers made of plastic, polyethylene, fabric or paper.

AMG installed approximately 11 fixed RFID readers at zone egresses and at dock doors, so that the company could identify when items entered or exited a given area. The antennas were installed in such a way as to enable the reader to identify the direction in which goods were being transported. Zebra's FX9500 RFID readers capture each product's tag ID number, along with its direction of movement, then forward that data to MSC's server, where ViziTrace software interprets the information. Staff members also carry Zebra MC9190-Z handheld readers when searching for specific loads within zones.

The RFID-based solution, Weiss says, has helped the company to manage what often comprises large, unwieldly pallet- or bale-type packages, for which bar codes would have been difficult to locate and scan. Ultimately, he reports, the solution has proven to be an accurate and efficient way to automatically identify storage locations and manage billing information.

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