Companies Deploy RFID Solution Leveraging Forklift Mounted Readers

Published: March 29, 2024

RFiD Discovery’s LiftTrak solution is used at large storage sites to track when and where goods are transported

UK technology company RFiD Discovery has released a real-time tracking system (RTLS) for warehouses and outdoor storage areas known as LiftTrak.

Unlike many RFID systems that read UHF RFID tags with a fixed reading portal, this solution consists of an RFID reader mounted directly onto materials handling equipment (MHE) such as forklifts.

By making the reader mobile, the company said, the system eliminates the need for fixed reader infrastructure, making RFID deployments to track goods or assets faster and lower cost.

The goal, according to RFiD Discovery, is to provide seamless tracking, both indoors and outdoors, based on the interactions between vehicles or equipment and tagged items. The system is designed to enhance warehouse productivity, increase stock accuracy and improve flow management.

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RFiD Discovery Expansion

LiftTrak was developed as an alternative that can affordably track goods in large areas with RFID, said Arron Duddin, head of RFiD Discovery.

RFiD Discovery has a history in RFID based solutions for the healthcare market. The LiftTrak solution represents its movement further into the logistics and manufacturing spaces. Over the past few years the company has established itself as a provider of tracking systems for industry as well. The LiftTrak solution adds to its expanding offerings for the logistics and manufacturing sectors.

While many companies with warehouses or storage spaces use reader portals at dock doors, such readers can’t be easily deployed outdoors due to their high-power requirements, said Duddin.

Tailored for Manufacturers

Indoors, fixed readers can be prohibitively expensive, and lack real-time or location data capabilities, since they only identify tags that come within range of that portal.

RTLS can leverage ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to capture location of goods across a wide area or locate forklifts with high accuracy. But they require extensive infrastructure, cabling and a set of RTLS anchors and receivers mounted throughout the facility. Additionally, it requires a battery powered UWB tags on goods. Such a system can be costly to deploy and maintain for many use cases. So the LiftTrak system was tailored for manufacturers that operate large storage facilities across diverse sectors and with complex supply chains, said Duddin.

The solution was developed in collaboration with RFiD Discovery customers including an unnamed tire manufacturer, and several aerospace industry suppliers, including metallurgy company Aubert & Duval that makes steel, aluminum and other metal parts. Those companies have all deployed the technology.

How it Works

LiftTrak consists of RFiD Discovery integrated tracking modules (including RFID reader) mounted on the MHE device that is used to transport goods around storage area. As the forklift drives around a warehouse or yard, it reads the tags within its vicinity to identify the item.

Coupled with load sensor data built into the MHE, that read data then confirms what is being picked up by the vehicle. The location of the vehicle as it picks up tagged goods can be identified as the MHE reader captures tag reads from marker tags around the facility on the floor or shelving.

The data is sent to the RFiD Discovery platform via Wi-Fi or a cellular network. The software can then provide details about goods or assets and where they’re located on a map of the facility, either indoors or outdoors.

Once the tagged item being picked up is read, a green LED light inside the forklift cab indicates to the driver if the correct item has been retrieved.

When the goods are placed in a new location, the system again detects that action via the tag read status and load sensor measurements, and assigns a new location to that item.

Outdoor Use With GPS

The system can be used outdoors in a similar fashion. The MHE readers the tags of goods that are being picked up and can link location data to the GPS location which is then sent back to the server. The system outdoors could use RFID-marker tags instead of (or in addition to) GPS data.

The reader also can capture tag location data in 3D by identifying how high a tag is, and therefore on what shelf a container or carton of goods is stacked on.

RFiD Discovery additionally offers a solution that can carry out inventory counts in a warehouse or other area, by simply driving past RFID tagged items. This inventory counting data can be fully integrated with LiftTrak to thereby store all information in a central database or feed data into an ERP or warehouse management system.

Companies can purchase the LiftTrak solution as either a Software as a Service (SaaS) model or buy it outright to be integrated onsite with their own software.

“Our solution is flexible to meet the needs of our customers,” said Duddin.

Key Takeaways:

  • RFiD Discovery is addressing the limitations and costs around UHF RFID reader portals or UWB real time location systems with a forklift mounted reader.
  • LiftTrak provides data about when and where goods are stored or retrieved, while signaling to drivers that they have accessed the right item.