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RFID Becomes an Overnight Sensation for Sernam
The French shipping company finds that a tag-and-reader system significantly improves the efficiency of its overnight deliveries.
"Adding RFID makes it easier for us to handle parcels, and we expect at least one less staff member will be required to track shipments in and out of the DC, compared to our current bar-code system," says Perron.
In the current RFID pilot, one of Sernam's publishing customers applies RFID-enabled labels to its parcels. The labels are also printed with bar codes, still used both as a backup for the RFID system during the trial, and for points in the delivery chain at which that customer does not yet use RFID for such things as pick-up and delivery.
An RFID label encoder-printer deployed at the customer site has a network link to Sernam's custom shipping chain application, running on an IBM AS/400 computer at Sernam's headquarters. The encoder reads the RFID label to verify its functionality, to link the preprogrammed unique ID on the tag to the bar code printed on the same label and to create a link between the ID number and the transportation data stored in the Sernam system.
In Sernam's operations, parcels are shipped together on single-use wooden pallets. The pallets are collected by truck and transported to Sernam' major distribution center in Porte de Clichy, in Paris. There, four of the DC's 14 delivery doors have been equipped with RFID portals, which record tagged parcels as employees load and unload them onto trucks.
"The RFID tag read is used to ensure each parcel is put in the correct area related to where the delivery will be made," says Perron. With each parcel automatically read as it passes into and out of the DC, Sernam believes it has seen how using RFID can help speed up its delivery process and reduce manpower requirements.
Once Sernam adds more customers to its RFID tagging service in June, it plans to attach RFID portals to the remaining delivery doors at Porte de Clichy, as well as those of up to 20 additional DCs throughout France. The latter are set to handle RFID tagged shipments as part of the overnight delivery service. While parcels from all 20 of Sernam's overnight delivery customers have their shipments collected and brought immediately to the Porte de Clichy DC, the shipments may still pass through another DC local to the point of delivery before being delivered.
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