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At Familia Sancela, RFID Reduces Shrinkage

The South American manufacturer of disposable diapers and other personal hygiene products uses RFID to track goods from factory to distribution center.
By Claire Swedberg
When an order is placed, an employee loads a pallet and wheels it past an Intermec EF5 portal. The portal's RFID interrogators are not designed to read consistently. Instead, the company has installed heat sensors. When a sensor detects a certain rise in temperature, that is interpreted as a sign that someone is approaching the portal, and the sensor trigger is sent to the RFID interrogators to begin reading. At the same time, digital cameras constantly capture footage of the event as the employee, pulling the hand truck, proceeds through the portal.

Once the reader captures data from the pallet and carton tags, InfoTrack software running on a back-end server translates that information to alert management that a specific pallet and cartons are loaded and ready to be shipped to a retailer. The employee then has 30 seconds to move the pallet past a second Intermec EF5 portal at the warehouse entrance. If 30 seconds passes without a pallet read at the second portal, an alarm sounds and an e-mail or text message is sent to Familia Sancela's management, who can then view video footage to determine what occurred and take corrective action. In this way, Arango says, the company avoids the accumulation of pallets that might sit waiting without being transferred to the warehouse, as well as discourage theft that could occur near trucks, where the products are most vulnerable.

InfoTrack developed the software the company uses to locate the pallets and cartons within the plant and warehouse, as well as to receive alerts when the pallets are not moved within the expected time frame.

"There were several challenges that were presented to us for this project," Arango says. First, he had to sell the technology's benefits to his company's senior management, then proceed with what would be Colombia's first RFID installation for tracking products as they leave production and enter distribution. This was especially challenging, he notes, since it was InfoTrack's first RFID project.

To convince management of the benefits, Arango worked with several vendors to determine the best solution. "We researched successful cases around the world," he states. Familia Sancela also installed the system for the first three months within a limited scope, "so its complexity wouldn't go out of our hands and control."

Familia Sancela now attaches approximately 100,000 tags on pallets and cartons per month, Arango says. Visibility has vastly improved, he adds, and the company has achieved 100 percent inventory accuracy. The firm continues to expand the system with the intention of installing it at all six of its facilities in Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

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