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Printing Houses, Paper Mills Test Reel-Tracking Solution

The companies have been trying out a system employing battery-assisted passive tags to track the movements of paper reels at mills, warehouses and printing houses, as well as facilitate newspaper production.
By Beth Bacheldor
More than a year ago, Yedioth Information Technologies began investigating the possibility of using RFID to track reels of paper, which can cost up to $1,000 apiece, to help support its sister companies, such as Yedioth Ahronoth, a Hebrew-language daily tabloid that boasts Israel's largest circulation. In speaking with some of Yedioth Ahronoth's paper suppliers—who claimed passive RFID tags didn't have the necessary read range, and that active tags were too expensive—the IT group learned about PowerID's BAP RFID tags.

In 2006, Yedioth Information Technologies ran several pilots in Sweden with Holmen Paper, and in Belgium with Stora Enso. The tags were adhesively affixed to the reels' cardboard cores, and reads were collected at various points. During the three-month-long Holmen pilot, for instance, at least a thousand reels were tagged and read via portals at the production area, and at a storage warehouse. The portal gates measured 3.5 meters wide and 5 meters tall, and the reels were on forklifts. In this pilot, Yedioth Information Technologies and PowerID ultimately attained successful tag reads 100 percent of the time.

A forklift moves a paper reel past an RFID portal.

Affixing RFID tags to paper reels promises more than inventory reductions, Avrahami says. Companies will be able to reduce the labor currently required to track the reels. What's more, adds Avrahami, the firms will be able to better control quality because they'll be able to ensure the right reels are put on the correct reel stands on the press, and track when paper breaks during printing (the paper sometimes rips due to faulty manufacturing as it unwinds off the roll at the press). With an interrogator affixed to the reel stand, a newspaper company could document such reel breaks and provide that information to the supplier.

In addition to the two completed pilots, Yedioth Information Technologies also worked with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to develop a simulation model that could analyze how well RFID would contribute to the operational efficiencies of a paper-reel supply chain. The partners' analysis revealed that RFID, within two years of being implemented, has the potential to save €50,000 ($72,000) for a midsize printing house that consumes 20,000 tons of paper per year.

In several weeks, Yedioth Information Technologies plans to embark on additional pilots. The company intends to expand its pilot with Holmen Paper, and to launch trials with Abitibi Consolidated and Norske Skog, paper suppliers in Canada and Sweden, respectively.

Meanwhile, the IT group is now offering its PaperVue solution, including PowerR tags and readers, software and integration services. According to Avrahami, one customer—a large Swedish printing house—will begin testing the system in two weeks.

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