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Grupo Vidrala Tracks Bottles From Production to Shipment

The Spanish glass manufacturer is using a system from JSV Infomatica y Comunicaciones to improve efficiency and reduce errors as pallets of product move though its warehouse and on to customers.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 16, 2011Grupo Vidrala, a Spanish glass container manufacturer, is employing an RFID system—with EPC Gen 2 readers installed on forklifts, and tags affixed to loaded pallets—at three of its factories, in order to improve efficiency by tracking product from the point of production to when the goods are loaded onto trucks destined for customers. The company plans to expand the system to all 13 of its production centers across Europe by the end of 2012. The solution was provided by JSV Informatica y Comunicaciones, with Intermec hardware. By using RFID, Vidrala's management has been able to reduce the amount of time required for moving product, and to receive alerts in the event that errors occur.

Grupo Vidrala has manufactured glass containers used by the food and agriculture industries for 45 years. The company has been expanding its operations during the past decade, with the addition of three Spanish production centers, as well as a plant in Italy, in Portugal and in Belgium. Vidrala's 13 glass-melting furnaces have the combined capacity to produce more than 3.5 billion containers. After introducing a SAP software system into all of its facilities, the firm began seeking other technology solutions that could tie into that warehouse-management system (WMS), in order to improve efficiency and be able to track every pallet.

Each forklift is equipped with an Intermec IV7 RFID reader and two reader antennnas that capture the ID number of the RFID label attached to the products loaded onto a pallet carried by the vehicle.

"Our goal is to improve control of pallets, to obtain unitary traceability and to feed our warehouse management system with accurate information," says José Manuel Delicado, the chief of maintenance and research and development at Vidrala's factory in Crisnova, Spain. After putting Delicado in charge of the SAP system deployment, the company determined that his Crisnova location would be the best place to start.

The Crisnova facility moves approximately 1,100 pallets daily, with about 300 movements taking place internally (for example, from the production area to storage). Before the RFID system was installed, the warehouse staff had to manually track every pallet's location and identification on paper. If a pallet needed to be moved, for instance, an employee would retrieve paperwork from the office listing the location at which that pallet was expected to be. This information was based on details previously handwritten by workers as the pallet was being placed at that location, and was then input into the computer by the office staff. According to the company, this tended to be a slow process with a potential for errors.

With the new system, Vidrala loads a pallet, then attaches a UPM RFID ShortDipole RFID label made with NXP Semiconductors' G2XM chip to each pallet prior to stretch-wrapping it. As the label is printed, says José Carlos Herrero, Intermec's chief technical officer, the unique ID number encoded to its tag is linked to data regarding the product being loaded onto it, using an Intermec IF30 fixed reader cabled to the RFID label printer, as well as robots that apply the label and stretch-wrap.

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