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RFID Zones Enable Automated Tracking Solution for Warehouse

Asset Recovery Specialists is monitoring the movements of hundreds of pieces of equipment in its San Diego warehouse with an RFID system that detects the zone in which tagged items were last detected, thereby increasing productivity by 30 percent.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 12, 2019

Reverse logistics provider Asset Recovery Specialists (ARS) has saved 30 labor hours each week, while also boosting its order-production rate by 30 percent, thanks to an RFID system that tracks its inventory of pre-owned equipment. Having confirmed that the technology provides effective inventory data based on zones throughout its facility, the company next plans to track when each item is loaded onto a vehicle for customer deliveries. The solution is provided by A2B Tracking Solutions.

ARS buys, sells and trades pre-owned office products, such as copiers and printers that it receives from banks following leases to companies furnishing offices. The company typically keeps the equipment onsite for approximately 90 days at its four centers in San Diego, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Swedesboro, N.J.; and Seattle, Wash. At any given time, its largest facility in San Diego could have custody of 2,000 assets, says Randy Dillon, ARS's president, with 100 to 150 items flowing through each day. Tracking them manually has been a time-consuming and error-prone process.

ARS buys, sells and trades pre-owned office products, such as copiers and printers.
The assets ARS buys and sells include copiers, phone systems, and medical, janitorial and warehouse equipment. The San Diego facility is the busiest of the four locations. Goods are delivered daily in varying amounts, ranging from a few dozen to hundreds, and staff members must keep track of each item that is received, stored or serviced, and then purchased.

When customers place orders, employees try to find each item quickly so it can be delivered to or picked up by those customers. To identify each item, ARS printed a visible inventory number on each label, but that required a visual check by personnel. If an item wasn't where workers expected it to be, it could take up to several hours to locate that object.

To improve the efficiency of storing, locating and accessing equipment, Dillon says, "We explored RFID about five years ago, but at that time, it was so expensive it wasn't realistic." In early 2018, the company began working with A2B Tracking on an RFID solution that was designed to be affordable while providing the zone-based location of each item, based on where its tag was last read within the 28,000-square-foot facility. It deployed the system in March 2019.

As goods are received, a MetalCraft UHF RFID hangtag is attached to each item and is then linked to details about that product, including its serial inventory number, in the A2B tracking software. A2B Tracking installed Impinj xSpan Gateway RFID readers around its facility, mounted to walls. Staff members are equipped with Zebra Technologies RFD8500 readers linked to an Android-based smartphone running an A2B Tracking app, according to Darryl Layne, A2B Tracking's VP of technology.

The company kept an aisle clear for vehicles to move products, then divided the storage areas into eight zones, with one fixed reader at the entrance to each zone on the lower floor, and another on the mezzanine level. Readers were also installed at the dock doors where good are received and tagged. As a piece of equipment is brought into the facility, it passes the reader mounted at the entrance to the zone in which it is being delivered, and that tag-read data is captured in the software and stored as the last known location for that item.

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