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Safeway Tracks Shipments to Alaska Stores, DCs

The supermarket chain is using a system of active RFID tags and readers to track cargo containers transported by shipping and logistics company Horizon Lines.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 24, 2007Safeway is utilizing a system of active RFID tags and readers to track cargo containers filled with cases of canned food, paper goods, boxes of cereals and other groceries as they leave distribution centers in Washington State and travel across Alaska to the chain's stores and distribution centers. The RFID system, deployed by container shipping and logistics company Horizon Lines, went live in late September with 5,100 of Horizon's 7,000 cargo containers tagged.

These containers are destined for Safeway and other customers. Thus far, however, Safeway is the only one with RFID readers installed at its own facilities. Horizon has installed Identec Solutions RFID interrogators at its Alaska sea terminal, as well as at three locations on the Glenn and Parks highways, traveling north and south between the terminal and Fairbanks. Safeway is using the same Identec Solutions readers at three of its facilities in Alaska—two stores and a distribution center.

Rick Kessler
The system was designed and implemented by Horizon Services Group, an IT subsidiary of Horizon Lines that is looking to extend this RFID infrastructure to roads, stores and DCs throughout the lower 48 U.S. states. In Alaska, Horizon deployed 12 interrogators at various points, from the port to Safeway stores, in order to provide the food retailer real-time shipment visibility during all phases of transit. Horizon is ready to make the system available to any of its other Alaska clients, says Rick Kessler, CIO of Horizon Lines and president and CEO of Horizon Services Group.

"What we wanted was to put the infrastructure in place to increase visibility from the terminal to the distribution centers and stores," Kessler says. Safeway has readers in place at its North Pole, Alaska, store, and at another site south of Fairbanks. It also has readers at its distribution center in Anchorage, and more DCs in Washington State—one in Bellevue, another in Auburn—from which Alaska-bound shipments depart.

Horizon Lines transports about 300,000 cargo containers of goods annually, 66,000 within Alaska. The biggest problem for Horizon, says Kessler, has been helping customers track a container's location as it moves from the port by truck. Until now, visibility has been limited to the seaport in Washington State, where the container has been loaded onto a ship, and to the destination seaport. Once the container left the Anchorage terminal on a truck bound for a store or warehouse, the visibility disappeared and Horizon Lines depended on phone calls to drivers and dispatchers to confirm a container's location at any given time.

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