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Robots and RFID Help KH Lloreda Distribute Its Products

The Spanish company has launched an automated system for loading and shipping its cleaning products to track where the cartons are being moved, and also capture any errors.
By Claire Swedberg
To track the loading of those goods and ensure that mistakes do not occur, the company chose an RFID system that can capture the ID number of a UPM Raflatac DogBone EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tag attached to each box loaded with cleaning products. Its factory has several carton-filling lines, one of which is automated—the other three are partially manual. On the automated line, a Germark RFID printer-encoder encodes each tag, which is automatically applied to the carton's exterior. In the semi-automated lines, factory workers place the encoded tags onto the cartons themselves.

A robot stacks the boxes onto a pallet, which then moves along an automated track to a fixed Impinj reader, where the pallet is rotated four times to ensure that the interrogator captures each RFID tag's unique ID number, thereby verifying which cartons are loaded onto the pallet. The reader then forwards that information to KH Lloreda's back-end system. If a box's tag can not be read, the system issues an alert to the staff so that the unreadable tag can be replaced by one that functions properly.

After each carton is packed with cleaner product, it is fitted with a UPM Raflatac DogBone RFID tag.

Once the reader data is received in KH Lloreda's software, the system changes the status of the cartons on that pallet to indicate each carton is being loaded for transport to the distribution center. Trucks then back into the four loading docks, each of which is equipped with a fixed Impinj RFID reader portal. The pallets are automatically loaded onto the vehicles. In some cases, this is achieved via a combination of moving tracks on the loading dock and directly inside the truck. In other cases, a telescoping robotic arm fitted with a double-width forklift loads pallets, two at a time, into the vehicle. As each pallet passes through the portal, the reader captures the tag IDs of the cartons on that pallet.

Once the system determines that all pallets are loaded onto the truck, KH Lloreda software signals an alert to the distribution center, indicating that a loaded truck will be arriving. In this way, the software can also begin preparing picking plans for customer orders, which are sent to the picking robot at the DC.

When the truck arrives at the distribution center—located less than a kilometer from the manufacturing facility—another RFID portal at the incoming loading dock awaits. The portal's Impinj reader captures each carton's ID number as the pallets are automatically unloaded via moving tracks and pass through the portal. Those IDs are again forwarded to the back-end system, in order to confirm that the items have been received at the distribution center.

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