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GPRS-GPS Tags Help Shippers Fight Theft, Reduce Costs

Olive product producer Transmed Foods and logistics provider Grupo Hemas are among those using the technology to track a container's location and issue an alert if its integrity is breached.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 06, 2009Two global companies have joined the growing ranks of those using Savi Network's SaviTrak system to gain visibility into the movement of products as they travel internationally. The system features battery-powered tags that serve as a seal to a container's door, and are embedded with a GPS receiver to locate its position and, in some cases, sensors for monitoring conditions within the container. The tags also contain a GPRS transponder to transmit ID, location and sensor data over a cellular connection, thereby enabling companies to monitor their containers' status in real time, as long as the tags are within cellular range. If a container is opened or its tag is damaged, an alert is sent to the container's owners and other authorized parties, warning them of the event. Both firms are employing SaviTrak LS and LSE tags, which have GPS and GPRS functionality; the LSE model also has built-in temperature and humidity sensors to monitor conditions within a container.

Transmed Foods will begin utilizing the system next week for shipments of sliced olives and other olive products from producers in Morocco and Spain to pizza restaurants and sandwich shops in the United States. Global logistics provider Grupo Hemas—hoping to deter theft, counterfeiting or smuggling in Mexico—has already begun using the same system to monitor containers loaded with its customers' products, so that it can determine if the containers its trucks transport are opened or rerouted.

Hector Mora Gomez, CEO of Grupo Hemas
Transmed Foods, which ships its olive products globally from growers in Morocco and Spain, sought a method of improving visibility, as well as reducing the time spent seeking inventory, and the need to keep "safety inventory" at hand in case supplies ran low in the United States. Products typically spend approximately 45 days traveling from the point of origin to the restaurants. That figure can vary by 20 days or more, however, depending on what happens in the supply chain. "Knowing the location of our goods at all times once they are loaded at the factory and in transit, and where they are at any given time, helps us manage our payments and finances better than waiting on EDI (electronic data interchange) messages from the factory or carrier," says Barry Dixon, the director of Transmed Foods.

The company also wanted a system that would notify it if a container—and thus the products inside that container—had been tampered with. In that way, the tag would serve two functions: a deterrent to potential thieves, smugglers or counterfeiters, and assurance to Transmed, as well as to its customers, that the products they receive have not been tampered with.

Transmed ships containers loaded with olive products to several Eastern U.S. ports. Once the ships reach land, the containers are shipped by truck to a Transmed distribution center (DC), where they are unloaded and the products are then shipped to restaurant operators throughout the country. A SaviTrak tag is attached to each container as it is loaded with goods at the point of origin in Morocco and Spain, says Nick Cova, Savi's VP of commercial operations. After utilizing the tag to seal the container's door, Transmed's staff uses an Internet-connected computer to enter their own user names and passwords, in order to log onto SaviTrak software, hosted by Savi Networks. The workers then enter the container number, as well as the tag's ID number, to link the container and tag with the shipment's electronic manifest and estimated time of arrival. When the tag comes within range of a GPRS base station or cell tower, it then transmits location data, as well as information regarding any attempts to open the seal. The SaviTrak software can send alerts to Transmed's employees by e-mail or text message.

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