In 2008, when Socarpor (Sociedade de Cargas Portuárias) decided to expand its port cargo business by opening a second terminal, the Portuguese company, then 24 years old, knew it would require state-of-the-art technology to compete successfully with operators at the nation's larger ports, including those in Lisbon and Oporto. Sograin—the company's new 300-meter (984-foot) solid grains terminal at the Port of Aveiro, in central Portugal—would have to ensure fast, efficient service for its customers, as well as compliance with government food safety and security regulations.
That meant putting a cost-effective system in place to swiftly discharge incoming ships of their cargo—barley, corn, wheat and other cereals imported from England, France, Germany, Spain and Eastern Europe—and transfer those goods to bins or silos for storage and distribution. Sograin would also need a system to accurately track as many as 300 customer trucks entering and exiting the terminal daily. "We wanted to build a fast system that would limit human resources and other costs," says Nelson Santos, Sograin's director.
While researching potential approaches to this project, Santos met with the Cachapuz Bilanciai Group, which provides industrial scales and related solutions, such as its SLV Platform—a customizable logistics and automation system for truck management, with modules for RFID access control and identification, as well as data analysis. Cachapuz, based in the northern city of Minho, "has a good market here in Portugal," Santos says. "Every company that needs weigh-control integration talks with them.
"RFID is the solution Cachapuz put on the table," Santos says. "We realized they could give us a solution for the entire management of trucks." It also could interface with the WinCoS terminal control software, provided by Switzerland's Bühler Group, that Santos had chosen for Sograin's billing and other management processes. "[The RFID solution] ensures that there is no product mix on the loads," he states, "and it is essential for Sograin's complete traceability, required by law, on the performed loads."
It took roughly 10 months from the time Santos began researching suppliers and solutions to when Cachapuz's customized SLV solution was put into place. The system has now been in operation for five years, enabling Sograin to dispatch approximately 100 vehicles per 8-hour shift. "It's fast," Santos says. "Very fast."
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