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German Label Manufacturer Boosts Shipments

Herma is using RFID tags and readers to track the locations of adhesive labels within its warehouse, based on the whereabouts of forklifts that pick up and deposit the pallets loaded with those labels.
By Claire Swedberg
With the new system, a forklift driver receives order information on the Ubisense touch-screen terminal installed on his forklift. The touch-screen displays a list of the pallets that need to be picked up, along with the approximate location at which each is expected to be found.

When the forklift arrives in front of the appropriate pallet, the driver uses a handheld bar-code scanner to read that pallet's label and forwards that information via a Wi-Fi connection to the Ubisense software residing on Herma's back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The pallet's bar-code serial number is compared against the number on the order, and if the order is correct, Ubisense software then instructs the driver as to where the pallet should be delivered. If it is not the correct pallet, a warning is displayed on the screen and the driver can then continue seeking the correct pallet.

The RFID system calculates where in the warehouse each loaded pallet is stored.

After picking up the pallet, the driver presses a prompt indicating he has begun transporting it to its destination. Each of the forklift's Ubisense ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID tags transmits a 6 to 8 GHz UWB RF signal encoded with a unique ID number linked to the vehicle's ID in the Ubisense software.

Once the driver has the proper pallet, he can then take it to the necessary location—for example, a staging area used prior to the loading of the trucks—indicated on the forklift screen. After placing the pallet onto the floor of the assigned location, he then presses a prompt on the screen indicating he has delivered the pallet as instructed, and as the tag transmits its signal to nodes in the vicinity, the Ubisense software calculates the location at the time of deposit, based on sensor node data, and then links that information to Herma's SAP software. Because the forklift is fitted with four tags—one on each corner of the vehicle—the system can identify its location to within approximately 30 centimeters (12 inches), and can determine its orientation as well, thereby knowing in which direction the forklifts are pointed, and thus exactly where the pallet was deposited.

When the pallet is ready to be loaded onto a truck, the process is the same, with the driver pressing the prompt on his screen as he places a pallet into the vehicle. At that time, the software calculates the forklift's whereabouts, thereby determining onto which truck the pallet has been loaded.

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