Sesa Goa Ltd. is India's largest producer and exporter of iron ore in the private sector. The company, established in 1954, has seen its revenue grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent during the past four years. Today, the firm conducts more than 7,000 truck runs daily to and from multiple locations, including mines, processing plants and jetties.
This presents a complex logistical challenge for Sesa. All the trucking routes are on crowded roads shared with other mining companies and the general public. In addition to dealing with the traffic, the firm must comply with government restrictions on transport time—it has to complete those daily runs within seven hours—as well as the allowable weight of truck shipments.
Managing the logistics, the company reports, was a "daily battle" that required an army of workers to continuously monitor and coordinate operations among various agencies. In 2009, Sesa's managers decided to address these issues. They wanted to automate internal processes to reduce bottlenecks at weighbridges and deliver faster turnaround times of trucks at various checkpoints, and to develop a single database to provide visibility into its logistics operations.
In 2010, Sesa launched a radio frequency identification solution that decreases the overall time it takes for trucks to complete delivery cycles. "Any solution that reduces the trip cycle time for our logistics operation is a direct contributor to sales volume, especially in the limited time window allowed for transportation," says Suresh Rathi, Sesa's head of infrastructure and logistics. That's because if shipments reach customers faster, he explains, the company stands to save money and improve customer satisfaction.
RFID on Trial
Prior to the launch, Sesa evaluated various technologies, including active and passive RFID, ZigBee and GPS, to determine which was most suitable for its operations, Based on that evaluation, the company tested an active RFID system in early 2009 at its Cudnem plant, involving the RFID-tagging of 25 trucks. Sesa found the active system couldn't accurately identify specific trucks while they were moving onto a weighbridge. The trial also showed that in an environment with high temperatures and dusty conditions, the active tags would not perform well.
In April 2009, Sesa hired systems integrator Perceptron Software Labs, based in Bangalore, India, to help evaluate potential passive RFID solutions. The systems integrator also mapped out how the technology could be integrated with existing business processes, as well as the company's back-end software. Perceptron Software worked with Sesa to seek proposals and conduct proof-of-concept pilots, which commenced in September of that year.
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