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Penske Logistics to Use RFID to Manage Yard Workflow

At a manufacturing facility in Texas, the company is deploying a system provided by Fluensee to track the locations of trailers filled with material, and to expedite the unloading of their contents.
By Claire Swedberg
That information will include such details as the ID number written on the trailer, the trailer's contents and the name of the contents' supplier, all of which is then linked to the tag's unique ID number. The driver will then attach the tag to the trailer and park the trailer in the yard. On a typical day, as many as 100 or more trailers are brought to the site and parked.

To record the trailers' locations, the two switchers will drive up and down the yard's aisles every day, equipped with a Motorola reader, GPS unit and a tablet PC. The interrogators will capture the ID numbers on the trailer tags as they pass, transmitting each trailer's tag ID number and GPS coordinates to the Fluensee system, where that trailer's location will then be recorded.

Later, when material needs to be delivered to a particular dock door, a switcher driver will receive an order on his tablet PC. Fluensee's Shunt Buddy software, running on the PC, will indicate which trailer to pick up, where it is located and which dock door it needs to be delivered to. When the driver backs up his truck to retrieve the requested trailer, the vehicle's RFID interrogator will read the ID number on the trailer's tag, and the GPS unit will determine the trailer's yard location.

The reader will then send the tag's ID number, as well as the vehicle's location, to the back-end system via a GPRS or Wi-Fi connection, Papa explains, confirming not only that the correct trailer is being picked up, but also its exact location. If it is the wrong trailer, he says, an alert is sent to the Fluensee software in the back-end system, as well as to the tablet PC for the driver to see.

After the trailer is delivered, the onboard system will determine its location, verifying that it has been delivered to the proper dock door. If the location is incorrect, an alert is sent to both the driver and the back-end system.

The system provides business analytics as well, Papa says, including data regarding how productive either of the two switcher units are, the number of miles they covered and the number of trailers they moved. "We are expecting the system to help improve workflow," Papa states. "Productivity and visibility are the key elements we will be looking at.'

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