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Plywood Maker Gets On Board With RFID

Krono Holding has embedded passive low-frequency tags in its warehouse floors to help it track the movements of forklift trucks and the wood products they load and unload.
By Rhea Wessel
Apr 01, 2008An international maker of plywood and particleboard, Switzerland's Krono Holding, is employing an RFID-based navigation system at its warehouses in Hungary and Slovakia, with a third system slated to become operational at a German warehouse in July. More than 1,600 passive low-frequency (LF) tags, embedded in the floors of each warehouse, track the movements of forklift trucks and the materials they load and unload.

The system was installed in a new warehouse at each of the three locations, but the company plans to expand it to existing facilities at a still-undetermined time. The system is based on technology from two Bavarian companies: SEP Logistik, a Weyarn-based provider of commissioning and warehouse management software, and Indyon, a supplier of real-time tracking systems headquartered in Pöcking, near Starnberg.

Kronospan-Mofa Hungary's warehouse uses passive low-frequency RFID tags, embedded in the floors, to help it track the movements of forklift trucks and the materials they transport.

The first warehouse to utilize the system was the Kronospan-Mofa Hungary Farostlemezgyártó factory. Managers wanted to create a more efficient system for locating particular pieces of plywood and particleboard, as well as for conducting quality tests on batches and ensuring that the oldest goods are sold first. The factory had been tracking such tasks by hand, relying on lists and employees' memories. Kronospan-Mofa Hungary stacks about 200 types of plywood and particleboard on blocks of pallets that can measure 5 meters high and 15 to 20 meters long.

When Kronospan-Mofa Hungary began planning the new warehouse, it contacted SEP Logistik, and the two firms developed a concept together. SEP Logistik proposed its RELAG software application, which features an RFID-based navigation system.

Kronospan-Mofa Hungary has been using the system since August 2007, when construction of the new warehouse was completed. It installed the 134 kHz tags in glass capsules in the concrete floor. The tags, made by Texas Instruments, comply with the ISO 11784 standard. Each tag is encoded with a unique serial number, which is stored in a database, where it is associated with the tag's warehouse location.

As soon as they are produced in the adjacent factory, the boards are stacked on a pallet. The front of the pallet is affixed with a label encoded with a bar-coded ID number and a product description. A driver picks up the pallet, using one of five forklifts outfitted with bar-code scanners and RFID interrogators. The forklift's bar-code scanner reads the pallet's label and notifies the warehouse management system that it has been picked up.

The system then sends a message to the forklift's touch-screen monitor, instructing the driver to place the pallet in a particular stack. The forklift driver heads toward the stack in the warehouse—which encompasses more than 7,500 square meters of space—driving over some of the RFID tags embedded in the floor. The forklift's RFID reader interrogates the tags, and the computer system is updated immediately with the vehicle's location.

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