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Kimberly-Clark Sees Positive Results With PINC Trailer Tracker System

The CPG maker is using passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to identify and locate 900 trailers at one of its manufacturing facilities, saving hours of labor.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 01, 2008Consumer packaged goods maker Kimberly-Clark (K-C) has nearly completed a pilot project employing passive EPC Gen 2-compliant RFID tags to track the locations of trailers filled with finished goods or raw materials at one of its manufacturing facilities in Beech Island, S.C. The tests have been a major success, according to Corey Mingerink, the company's senior RFID packaging engineer.

Under K-C's manual tracking system, it could take up to three hours for workers to locate a specific trailer at the Beech Island site, which has five separate lots for trailer storage. It now takes minutes to locate a trailer using the RFID-based system. From a labor savings and productivity standpoint, Mingerink claims, the return on investment K-C stands to realize from the technology is clear.

Corey Mingerink
Mingerink notes that when his company began searching for a means of better managing the trailers, it shunned active real-time location systems, even though such systems are widely utitlized for that application. "We looked at the market and we came across PINC Solutions, which combines passive RFID technology and GPS technology," he told attendees at last month's RFID Journal LIVE! 2008 conference in Las Vegas. "This is a great example of using more than one technology—coupling passive technology with GPS removes the need for active RFID tags."

K-C is using the Yard Hound trailer-tracking platform from PINC Solutions, based in Berkeley, Calif. A passive EPC Gen 2-compliant RFID tag is attached to each of the roughly 900 trailers within the facility's yard at any particular time, and a network of fixed and mobile readers is used to identify the trailers.

Although the pilot is scheduled to last another few months, it has virtually moved to a permanent deployment, says Mike O'Shea, K-C's director of Auto-ID sensing technologies—save for some infrastructure issues at the facility that are not directly related to the PINC technology. "Other [K-C] yards are fighting over who gets to deploy it first," he stated following the LIVE! session.

The PINC solution has three components, all of which K-C is currently employing. The Yard Hound Guard application is installed at a yard's security entrance and exit lanes, and consists of a fixed-position EPC Gen 2 interrogator and PINC software running on a computer in the guard post. As a truck hauling a trailer to be dropped off enters the yard, a passive EPC Gen 2 tag, encased in a hard plastic housing, is secured to the trailer by means of the tag's magnetic backing. The ID number encoded to the tag is interrogated by the fixed-position reader and associated, in the PINC software, with shipping information pulled from K-C's existing yard management software. When that trailer is later hauled out of the yard, the tag is read once more, then removed so it can be reused for another incoming trailer.

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