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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
The location information is used to confirm that the right batch of goods is placed on the correct storage stack. If a driver were to head in the wrong direction, the system would use this data to alert the driver to the impending error, thus saving time. Upon reaching the appropriate storage stack, the driver places the pallet on the stack and confirms delivery via the vehicle's touch screen. By reading the RFID tag in the floor in front of the stack, the system double-checks that the pallet has been delivered to the proper storage stack.

When it's time to load trucks, the same process occurs in reverse. The forklift driver picks up the pallet from a particular stack, as instructed by the vehicle's monitor, and takes it to the specified truck. Instead of having to read a paper list while at the wheel of the forklift, the driver relies on the electronic cues generated via RFID to indicate where to drop off the load. Once the pallets have been loaded onto the back of the truck, the warehouse management system records the exact time of loading and automatically produces a shipping receipt without the worker having to request it.

Instead of having to read a paper list, the forklift driver now relies on electronic cues generated via RFID to indicate where to drop off the load.

Dietmar Rinne, head of Krono Holding subsidiary Kronospan IT GmbH, says there were no technical problems during the system's installation, and that there have been no problems operating it. However, the company did need to invest significant time and resources in training employees in the system's use—it took about eight weeks to train 25 workers, he says.

Rinne oversaw the integration of the RFID application with the company's custom ERP software. He says Kronospan Hungary invested €200,000 ($312,000) in the system, but has not yet calculated an ROI since his firm lacks specific data for comparative purposes on the costs of doing the process manually.

According to Rinne, Kronospan is satisfied with the system and its main benefit—that it allows workers to find stored products faster than in the past. Based on this improvement, he notes, Kronospan is now able to conduct more quality checks since each check—which involves locating specific items—can be performed quicker. What's more, since it can find specific items without using paper lists and relying on the memory of its employees, Kronospan is able to ensure that it ships the oldest goods first, so that its stock doesn't age.

Krono has already rolled out the same system at its warehouse in Zvolen, Slovakia, featuring more than 4,000 tags embedded in the floor and eight RFID-enabled forklifts. The training process in Slovakia was faster and smoother, Rinne says, thanks to the company's experience in Hungary. A third identical system is currently being installed in Bischweier, Germany.

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