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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.
The pilot participants were able to capture—and share—information at different points in the supply chain. "It gives you visibility of goods through the supply chain," Palazzolo explains, "and turns indiscriminate EPC RFID reads into business transactions."
Some of the customers in the pilot reported productivity gains of 14.3 and 22.2 percent, achieved by reducing process times, and by using ePODs rather than paper-based processes. "That's a strong saving," says Palazzolo.
CHEP estimated productivity gains of 28 percent for the entire end-to-end delivery process, Fane says. "The measured percentage gains are impressive, but do not really tell the story. We found that once we achieved 100 percent reliability, everything just became simple. There was no counting, no paperwork and no data entry, yet we had complete agreement that the pallets we sent were the pallets that arrived."
The most difficult challenge, according to Palazzolo, was achieving the 100 percent reliability. "Wanting 100 percent read rates was a great challenge to set, especially given that we'd heard previously that high 90s were doable, but not 100 percent."
Read rates were hampered by the condition of the pallets' wood, as well as their paint. The pilot used both new and used pallets, and some of the new pallets had been painted the day before the trial. "The moisture content in the new pallets was a lot higher than in the conditioned ones," Palazzolo says, "which had dried with age. So we needed to account for that as well when tuning the tags and insulating the tags from the wooden substrate. To cater to this, we used a couple of millimeters of foam on all pallets, along with foil on the newer pallets."
Once these obstacles were overcome, however, the pilot's objectives were met. "RFID really did deliver on its promise," Fane states, "even though it was only for the last few runs."
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