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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.
"The regional DCs that we deploy RFID to will depend on the requirements of the clients that start to use RFID," says Perron.
Sernam is reportedly in talks with a number of other customers eager to tag their parcels. These customers want to gain experience working with RFID, as well as increased visibility into the status of their packages while in Sernam's delivery chain. Sernam says it will work with its customers to determine the specific arrangements and pricing for each deployment.
The details of each customer's use of RFID have yet to be determined. Still, Sernam is convinced RFID tagging will enable it to offer a premium service, for which customers will be charged an extra fee.
"Many clients have been asking about RFID, and companies will pay extra to get visibility. To deploy with a customer requires a degree of partnership. We will discuss price and who pays for the tags and material, but the client won't pay for everything," says Perron.
Sernam believed it had a business case for RFID before embarking on any RFID trial. In 2003, the company carried out its own analysis of the potential to improve the visibility of parcels moving through its supply chain. Convinced the technology would reap a worthwhile return, it asked IBM—one of its existing IT services suppliers—to develop and institute both an RFID trial and the current ongoing pilot. Moreover, IBM developed software to link the RFID network to the existing operational application, along with additions to the existing back-office application.
In the summer of 2004, IBM began work to determine if the technology was reliable enough to be used, and to decide which vendors' technology would be used in the pilot. The trial lasted three months and took place using real customer parcels—but no overnight-delivery parcels—being unloaded from trucks at Sernam's Porte de Clichy DC.
"Because of all the variables that can affect RFID, we had to have a realistic setting for the tests," says Christian Mottet, the IT architect who led the Sernam project for IBM. His company, he explains, had already tested vendor equipment in its own labs, so it knew which systems were best suited to specific customer deployments.
IBM tested UHF interrogators from three vendors and an HF interrogator from a fourth. The UHF readers tested came from Canada-based iPico, California's Neology (formerly SCS Corp.) and Toronto RFID interrogator provider SAMSys Technologies (now owned by Sirit). The HF system, meanwhile, was provided by French manufacturer Pygmalion.
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