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RFID Solution Tracks Goods in Stock

T-Systems and Valid have jointly developed a system to identify stored products and optimize distribution center operations.
By Edson Perin
Nov 01, 2019

T-Systems, a German IT solutions and services company, and Valid, a Brazilian multinational solutions provider for identification and traceability, have combined their experiences to develop a joint warehouse-management system (WMS). The solution automates transportation processes within a distribution center, the companies report, while providing greater storage control, process agility and space optimization, as well as reducing the risk of merchandise loss.

The system was created to serve the agribusiness sector by controlling the storage of large bags of coffee. Recently, the technology was expanded to monitoring the storage of soybean and corn seeds, also in large bags. Now, the system is being used by automotive, ceramic, refrigeration and other companies. RFID deployments for individualized packaging control follow GS1's standard for passive EPC UHF RFID technology. Readers and antennas are installed on forklifts, though there are designs for reader installation on fixed access gates and mobile overhead cranes. Valid manufactures the RFID tags at its facility in Sorocaba.

The system's modular, integrated architecture allows the add-on modules to be integrated with any enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution or legacy technology. The equipment used, including RFID readers, come from consolidated brands in the market, reducing support costs and facilitating acquisition and maintenance. One advantage of the system, the companies report, is its ability to operate without interruption, with industry-standard equipment and a robust architecture. This keeps the solution operating even if failures occur in a local network, and its ability to link to the Internet allows synchronization without a loss of forklift data.

Optimizing a warehouse's receiving and shipping operations is one of the platform's benefits, thanks to a virtual warehouse map that provides the real-time locations of stored goods. The database can be local or involve cloud computing. The choice is determined by an operation's criticality to the infrastructure available for data communication. In warehouses with critical operation and a poor data link, for example, a local server is recommended.

Adriano Franki, Valid's VP of digital and new business, says the WMS solution come with Goods Receipt, Internal Storage and Moving, and Picking and Production Line modules. "With the Goods Receipt module," he states, "the WMS defines the storage location, and it is up to the warehouse operator to reconcile the pallet label with the storage information."

The use of forklift-mounted tablets, antennas and RFID readers will allow operators to receive information by zooming in and checking the WMS-defined storage location on the digital map. In the Internal Storage and Movement module, the WMS will define each item's storage location, which will then be validated by the forklift. "Each position is identified by a floor tag," Franki states, "and the solution ensures the traceability of items even during internal movements."

Finally, the Picking and Production Line module allows a picking order to be received from the production line and then by placed in the queue of forklift operators. "The work is assigned and the picking location is presented on the tablet to the operator," Franki explains, "who, after moving the pallet to the indicated location, announces the clearance of the space to the WMS, which now considers it as an option for storing new goods."

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