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Australian Companies Say Pallet-Tracking Project Proves RFID's Mettle
CHEP, P&G, ACCO and other participants used EPC Gen 2 tags to track the delivery and return of wooden pallets, achieving perfect read rates throughout the supply chain.
Jul 09, 2007—An Australian consortium of businesses and organizations has just completed a two-month pilot-testing EPC Gen 2 RFID tags and interrogators affixed to wooden pallets. The results, the group says, prove RFID can raise productivity and efficiencies in a multi-industry supply chain.
The pilot, known as the National EPC Network Demonstrator Project Extension, was managed by GS1 Australia, a branch of the international standards-setting organization GS1, in cooperation with RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. The purpose of the pilot, says Maria Palazzolo, CEO of GS1 Australia, was to demonstrate that "EPC/RFID isn't merely a theory that works on paper." According to Palazzolo, "If you have the right team of talented people who have some experience and know-how, supported by good software and hardware, you will find a solution and you can make RFID work in your environment."
Murray Fane, director of information systems for CHEP's Asia-Pacific division (one of the project's participants) agrees. "Good asset-management control principles require all assets to be counted and data to be entered correctly," he says. "Current supply-chain practices also involve quite a bit of paperwork, often by the sender, the receiver and the transporter. We set out to remove counting, data entry and paperwork, yet we still wanted 100 percent accuracy and integration with our ERP system. This would really make RFID live up to the promise."
CHEP provided wooden pallets for the pilot, fitted with passive EPC UHF RFID tags. Other participants included office products supplier ACCO Australia, consumer packaged goods (CPG) provider Capilano Honey, logistics provider Westgate, discount supermarket operator Franklins Australia, CPG company Procter & Gamble, supply-chain and logistics provider Linfox and CPG company MasterFoods. Service providers Telstra and Retriever Communications also contributed to the project.
Many consortium members had joined together for an earlier project, completed in June 2006 (see RFID Trial Down Under). The consortium began planning for a subsequent pilot in September 2006, and shortly before Christmas that same year, it received an A$109,500 (US$94,100) grant from the Australian government's Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, as part of its Information Technology On-Line program. The pilot ran from March (the first RFID tag read was performed on March 12) through May, including more than 3,300 tagged pallets.
The tags employed in the pilot were passive EPC Gen 2 tags from Impinj. The standard used for the unique numbering of the pallets was a Global Returnable Asset Indicator (GRAI), a GS1 numbering structure for returnable assets. A Global Location Number (GLN), another GS1 numbering structure, was utilized to uniquely identify locations where handheld readers were operated.
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