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POAGS Uses RFID to Manage Ore Deliveries

Australia's largest bulk and general stevedoring company is utilizing active tags and readers to identify ore-hauling trucks, and to direct their drivers to the appropriate hoppers.
By Dave Friedlos
With Utah Point handling approximately 127,000 truck movements per year—a figure expected to rise as the facility increases capacity—POAGS set about modeling traffic volumes and throughput based on its projected mine and export targets, in order to develop a traffic-management system. POAGS initially investigated a range of traffic-management and road-tolling systems from a number of intelligent transportation system (ITS) providers, before choosing a solution from RAMP.

"Given the unique characteristics and requirements of the project," Connell states, "the need to significantly modify and enhance the enterprise ITS, and the tight timetable, we abandoned the ITS approach. We evaluated a number of RFID providers and selected the RAMP RFID solution."

RAMP deployed Identec Solutions' Intelligent Long Range (ILR) technology, including 3,500 i-Q350 active tags, operating at a frequency of 915 MHz. The company installed 20 Identec i-Port M 350 readers, with one interrogator positioned outside the facility for remote early detection, and the remaining 19 located at entry gates (to detect a truck's arrival and departure), at hoppers for storing minerals prior to shipment and at the tag-return site. The solution also features integrated electronic variable message signboards (VMS) to direct truck movements, along with a purpose-built traffic-management system (TMS) application. The TMS application provides database records for truck deliveries and event management, as well as complex queue management logic to control traffic flow, and integration with the central control system.

The tags are allocated to truck drivers at the mine sites, where the drivers pick up ore for transportation, and are attached to the inside of the windshield using suction cups to enable the vehicles to be tracked en route from the mine site and at the Utah Point Bulk Facility. A truck's presence is first recorded by the remote early-detection reader, located about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the facility's entry gates. It is then detected at the gates to Utah Point. As the vehicle moves throughout the Utah Point site, it is identified by the remaining readers. The TMS software uses the RFID data to direct the vehicles, via the signboards, to the appropriate stockpile queue, where the load of ore is then delivered to a hopper.

According to Connell, there were a number of significant challenges inherent in rolling out the system, including the facility's remote Pilbara location; the harsh, arid environment, in which temperatures can regularly exceed 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit); and the variety of stakeholders involved in the project. The Utah Point facility was also still under construction and beginning partial operation when the RFID solution was rolled out. As a result, he says, considerable testing was performed beforehand, including verifying the technology within RAMP's facilities in Sydney, as well as a number of test-case scenarios to ensure that the RFID hardware was integrating with the complex queue logic, and that the system was delivering exact results. Tests were also conducted to ensure that the solution could accommodate the high traffic volumes before the system was delivered on-site and installed.

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