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APS Learns the Logistics of RFID

When an appliance maker asked American Port Services for help meeting its RFID mandates, the logistics provider installed its own RFID system and expanded its service offering.
By Elizabeth Wasserman
Tags: Logistics
Jul 04, 2005As a third-party logistics provider, American Port Services is accustomed to serving customers by handling the details associated with getting goods to market. It provides the transportation, the warehousing, the packaging and, ultimately, the delivery of merchandise to distribution centers and stores across the United States.

Last summer, APS management was approached by a long-time client that was in a quandary about how to RFID-tag all its wares destined for one of the world's largest retailers, in response to that retailer's mandates. APS decided to tackle that problem for the client, as well. As a result, APS now has an RFID system in place that it can use to help all its customers meet the mandates from a number of retailers requiring RFID tags be used on all shipments of goods they receive.

APS helped that customer—a manufacturer of electric appliances—meet the retailer's Jan. 1, 2005, deadline for its top 100 suppliers to RFID-tag all cases and pallets shipped to the retail giant's distribution centers in Texas. The logistics provider had already received regular shipments of merchandise from the client, warehoused those shipments, sorted them for various retail chains and trucked them to distribution centers and stores. To help the client meet the retailer's RFID mandate, APS developed a new process. APS would pick out the cases and pallets that needed to be RFID-tagged, print and encode RFID labels with unique Electronic Product Codes (EPCs) for those shipments, attach those tags manually to cases and pallets and then transport the tagged products to the retailer.

The addition of RFID tagging to APS's roster of client services is part of a trend in the logistics industry, as more manufacturers are facing RFID mandates for their products and are seeking an easy and low-cost solution. Ryder System opened an RFID lab in its Dallas/Fort Worth facility to test hardware and software, tag placement configurations and integration of RFID into warehouse and transportation management systems. Another logistics provider, DC Logistics, set up an RFID distribution center in Dallas, where the company encodes RFID labels, attaches them to cases and pallets of goods and makes sure the tags respond to RFID readers, or interrogators, before being sent to Wal-Mart.

APS viewed adding RFID tagging as a way to service an important client. By helping that client meet its customer needs, APS expects its relationship with the client to grow even stronger. The company also wanted to demonstrate that it could meet future logistics needs.

APS, based in Savannah, Ga., was founded in 1987. The company specializes in developing and operating high-volume distribution centers and facilities where goods and merchandise can be cross-docked—received in one loading dock door, sorted, segregated and sometimes repackaged, then shipped out another loading dock door. APS operates facilities near several major U.S. ports: Savannah; Charleston, S.C.; Norfolk, Va.; Seattle; Long Beach; Calif.; and Houston. The company has more than 1,500 employees, 800 loading dock doors and 4 million square feet of warehouse space. (In June 2005, the company announced it was being acquired by Schneider Logistics, an international logistics services provider. Schneider expects to close the purchase by mid-August.)

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