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Dutch Horticultural Supply Chain Tests RFID "From Plant to Customer"

Growers, exporters and shippers are using EPC RFID tags to track the location of each tray of plants, ensure the accuracy of shipments and reduce labor.
By Claire Swedberg
The pilot is expected to be completed in the last quarter of this year, Heemskerk says, after which participants will evaluate the results and complete a report by early 2011, indicating how successful it was. The main benefit, he notes, has been to reduce labor hours for the supply chain participants (the number of bar-code scanning events, for instance), and to catch shipment errors. It has also enabled Sierteelt Direct, Hamiplant and Breewel to better forecast when shipments would arrive and, in that way, to staff the warehouses accordingly, as well as schedule other tasks around the product's expected arrival time.

What's more, Heemskerk adds, because the participants can better schedule their staff's loading, unloading and repacking tasks according to shipment arrival estimates, the companies have been able to optimize their logistical processes, making surprise surges in order arrivals less likely to occur. The system has reduced errors by alerting employees immediately if an order being filled contains any incorrect or extra items, or if anything is missing from that shipment.

At Hamiplant's facility, an RFID portal installed at an outgoing dock door verifies that the trolley is loaded correctly.

"The project has been very successful," Heemskerk states. "I think we can yield a lot of benefits with RFID." Interaxi's full report on the pilot's results will be reviewed by Florilog and the supply chain pilot participants, in order to determine whether to proceed with a permanent RFID deployment.

Other horticultural companies and organizations have deployed—or are attempting to deploy—radio frequency identification. Since 2002, Dutch flower-auction cooperative FloraHolland has been utilizing various RFID applications to track trolleys of flowers, and to more efficiently move products through its facility (see Dutch Horticultural Company Sends Flowers via RFID).

For the past two years, horticulture logistics supplier Container Centralen has been working to apply EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to all 3.5 million of its plant trolleys (or CC Containers) in Europe, as part of an effort to better control its inventory, as well as reduce shrinkage and counterfeiting (see Container Centralen Says It's Ready to Roll Out RFID in Europe). The firm originally set a deadline of Feb. 1, 2010, by which all of its plants trolleys would be tagged, but in response to requests for additional time from its customers (various members of the horticultural supply chain), the cut-off date was postponed to Nov. 1 of this year. Recently, that deadline was extended again, to Jan. 10, 2011.

Separately, in the United States, Container Centralen is employing active RFID tags on 250,000 of its trolleys, so that they can be tracked at 150 locations throughout the country (see Container Centralen Adds Active Tags to U.S. Carts).

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