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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
After the container arrives at the U.S. port, the tag continues to function as the container is transported to the distribution center. Once the container is opened and unloaded at the DC, the tag and the SaviTrak system are no longer in use. The tag is then returned to Savi Networks, which provides the necessary tags for the next shipment.

With the GPRS-GPS system, Transmed hopes to be more efficient at shipping required products, when they are needed, and not running too low on stock or experiencing stock overflow at U.S. distribution centers. By using SaviTrak, Transmed knows when containers have left the port in Morocco or Spain, what is loaded in that container and (when it again comes within range of a GPRS signal at the U.S. port) exactly where it is, as well as when it can be expected to arrive at the DC. In this way, Transmed can better schedule the flow of product into and out of the distribution center. This, the company indicates, will reduce the cost previously spent on labor to locate shipments, as well as on labor expenses related to the additional stock stored in the distribution center to ensure product did not run out. "Our customers will benefit from our improved control of import operations," Dixon says. "The more efficient we are, the better we are able to manage our costs. This will benefit our customers, by making us more agile, responsive and, above all, cost-competitive."

In October 2009, Grupo Hemas—which services as many as 600 locations in Mexico—began using SaviTrak to provide security. The system provides the company and its customers with assurance that the container, en route from a manufacturing site to the United States, or to the port to be shipped to Asia, is not opened and has not been diverted from its route. In this case, the firm created its own Web-based service, known as Hemaspheria, which pulls data from SaviTrak's server. Grupo Hemas' customers (typically, manufacturers of toys, electronics, perfume, liquor, tires, automotive parts or other goods) can utilize Hemaspheria to access information regarding their in-transit cargo—such as their current location, as well as whether the container had been opened. What's more, police, customs, military and environmental agency officials can also access the Hemaspheria Web site, by entering their own user ID and password, as well as the container identifier, to monitor a specific shipment.

Until now, Grupo Hemas has relied on protecting its cargo with armed escorts that travel with or behind trucks, ensuring that no one attempts to access the truck container. The escorts are not a foolproof solution, however, since they can be threatened or bribed, in which case smugglers (such as those who might place drugs in a container destined for the United States) or thieves can still access the containers. That process also provides greater risk to the individuals trying to protect the cargo. By attaching the SaviTrak seal to the container, Cova explains, the human element is thus removed. The company receives data regarding where the trucks are, or have been, and is alerted if a container has been opened at any point during its transportation.

Like Transmed, Cova says, Grupo Hemas attaches the SaviTrak tags at the factories that manufacture its customers' goods when the containers destined for the United States are loaded. The container number and cargo details are input into the SaviTrak server, and can then be accessed from the Hemaspheria Web site. When data is transmitted from the tag, it is received by the SaviTrak server and forwarded to the Hemaspheria server, thereby allowing information to be shared with Mexican and U.S. public safety agencies.

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