Packaging Logistics Services Uses RFID to Track Assets—and Offer New Services

October 26, 2009

British company Packaging Logistics Services (PLS) (www.packaginglogistics.com) has a two-pronged service approach: It leases out plastic pallets and reusable containers to customers, and manages pallets and containers used by other companies. Now, PLS has deployed RFID technology to achieve more transparent tracking throughout the supply chain. In keeping with its service roster, PLS is also using the technology to help its customers set up RFID tracking for their own assets throughout the European supply chain (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/5043/1).

The RFID solution includes ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tags being attached to PLS’s fleet of pallets and containers. The tags are attached to the corners or edges of reusable packaging, and any tags affixed to individual containers or pallets are encoded with a unique Global Reusable Asset Identifier (GRAI) number. To read the tags, RFID interrogators have been installed at the company’s four European depots, as well as at the dock doors of PLS’s depots and third-party warehouses. In some cases, handheld readers are also used. The system’s back-end software system receives the RFID reads and transmits that data to PLS or its customers.

PLS plans to tag all of its assets within a year, and install RFID interrogators at its four depots and about 16 third-party warehouses. Additionally, PLS signed an agreement with one its customers, a global beverage manufacturer, to apply RFID tags to that company’s plastic pallets to allow for tracking from DC to retailer. The customer will be able to track the location of its assets by linking retail orders with specific pallet or container RFID numbers.

Advertisements

RFID Growth Predicted to Skyrocket in Healthcare Industry

October 20, 2009

In today’s global economy, it has become the rare market that is sustaining itself, let alone growing. The RFID market in healthcare, however, is not simply growing; by 2019, the market for RFID tags and systems in healthcare will rise from this year’s $94.6 million to a staggering $1.43 billion.

This high rate of growth can be attributed to the myriad applications that the healthcare industry has found for RFID. For example, RFID tags can be used to track and locate:

  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Medical disposables and other items
  • Pallets and cases
  • Laundry
  • People
  • Conveyances, vehicles, and other assets

In addition, sensor-based applications can be used to ensure that pharmaceuticals never vary from the safe and acceptable temperature range, sending alerts to the appropriate personnel if temperatures suddenly rise or drop. Meanwhile, the back-end RFID software can monitor expiration dates, alerting medical staff when certain drugs and medications are approaching or have passed them.

Additionally, RFID badges and smart cards can also be used in conjunction with Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) to provide access control and ensure patient safety. The latter is particularly applicable to elderly patients or those with dementia and other mental and/or psychiatric disorders. RFID can also be used to deter and catch drug counterfeiting, prevent theft, and enhance stock control and recalls.

With so many applications—which will only increase in time—it is no wonder that the RFID market in healthcare is one of the healthiest in today’s global technology market (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/037e8e/rfid_for_healthcare).


Scott Air Force Base Tackles Asset-Tracking Challenges with RFID

October 15, 2009

At the 375th Medical Group, Scott Air Force Base Medical Center (www.scott.af.mil), tracking assets throughout 2,000 rooms in different buildings proved a significant challenge. Specifically, the Illinois-based Medical Center sought to keep better track of the information technology equipment used to give patients medical and dental services. To increase the speed and efficiency of tracking such equipment, Scott AFB Medical Center turned to RFID technology.

Crucial to designing a system was ensuring tag readability, deciding on the type of mounting surface, and achieving the appropriate aesthetics—especially for tags affixed to mobile devices. In the end, the Medical Center chose to use EPC Gen 2 passive handheld RFID readers and passive, semi-passive, and active RFID tags, as well as a web-based software that integrates with automated technologies. This allows the Medical Center to create and access up-to-date asset and inventory reports.

Prior to deploying the RFID solution, Medical Center often struggled with finding relocated and/or misplaced assets. This caused the required periodic audits to be incredibly time-consuming. Additionally, because the audits were completely manual—involving the reading of serial numbers and updates in spreadsheets or other enterprise systems—achieving 100 percent accuracy was nearly impossible.

Today, RFID tags are used to identify specific rooms and assets, and the system allows Medical Center staff to conduct physical searches of batches of assets when it is time for their replacement. Based on the benefits that the RFID solution has given the Medical Center, it is likely that the system will soon be extended to track new assets and locations.


Kuwaiti Retail Chain Uses RFID to Improve Service and Deter Theft

October 13, 2009

Future Communications Co. (www.fcc-kuwait.com) operates 35 telecommunications retail stores and service centers throughout Kuwait. In a recent bid to improve inventory processes and enhance service and security, the company has deployed RFID at one of its Nokia mobile phone stores.

The project began in 2006 with a pilot to test the efficacy of RFID and was, according to the company, the first retail RFID deployment in the Middle East and North Africa. The goal of the pilot was to evaluate how RFID technology improved processes at the point-of-sale, in the supply chain, and when taking inventory. Based on the pilot’s successful results, Future Communications Co. decided to keep the technology in place.

Today, RFID tags are immediately applied to mobile phone packages and accessories as soon as new stock enters the store. Workers then use handheld and fixed RFID interrogators to perform inventory, a task that now takes 20 minutes rather than the half-day it used to take with manual processes. Additionally, a fixed RFID reader at the store’s entry and exit point gives operators the unique ID number of each item being taken from the store, issuing an alert when an item has not been paid for. This gives FCC an immediate and accurate way to combat theft.

The fixed RFID reader also performs another function: It identifies customers carrying RFID-based loyalty cards. This enables store employees to instantly access those customers’ purchase histories, giving them a highly personalized service experience (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/5029/2).


Tufts Medical Center Relies on RFID to Track 5,000 Medical Instruments

October 8, 2009

Dozens of prestigious U.S. health care institutions have deployed RFID technology to track and safeguard valuable medical equipment. Now, Boston-based Tufts Medical Center (http://www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/default) will be using RFID to track approximately 5,000 medical instruments and products.

The system is being focused particularly on the hospital’s world-renowned Interventional Radiology, Adult and Pediatric Cath Labs, and EP Lab to increase equipment visibility. One of the hospital’s end goals, according to an official, is to reduce inventory levels in these areas by at least 20 percent in order to redistribute those resources to areas where they are more critically needed. The 451-bed Medical Center also hopes that the RFID system will enable it to lower operational expenses and reduce write-offs without negatively affecting patients and workflow.

The system uses RFID-enabled cabinets and Point-of-Service RFID readers to achieve real-time inventory management. This frees Medical Center staff from performing manual processes—such as tracking inventory and product usage—that are both time-consuming and potentially inaccurate. As a result, the RFID system streamlines workflow by allowing health care practitioners to focus even more on patient care. To read the full announcement, see http://ca.news.finance.yahoo.com/s/22062009/34/biz-f-business-wire-tufts-medical-center-chooses-wavemark-track-cardiology-products.html


G&P Net Set to Deploy Million-Plus Tag RFID Garment Tracking System

October 6, 2009

Leading apparel designer and manufacturer G&P Net is the latest apparel company to turn to RFID technology (http://www.morerfid.com/details.php?subdetail=Report&action=details&report_id=5976&display=RFID). Based in Italy with supply chain channels throughout Europe, G&P Net is the producer of such brands as GeoSpirit and Peuterey.

Sharing the needs of many apparel manufacturers, G&P Net wished to optimize logistics and achieve total traceability of coats, jackets, trousers, and shirts from the manufacturer to distribution; improve operational efficiencies for incoming and outgoing goods; and enhance warehouse inventory management. For G&P Net, an item-level RFID garment tracking system offered the best solution.

To achieve its goals, the company has tagged each of its garments with an RFID inlay. After garments are tagged, high performance readers provide instant reads of the more than 300 garments contained in each shipping box. As a result, G&P Net has saved significant labor and time once spent manually checking the garments in each box.

Additionally, G&P Net now has complete supply chain visibility and 100 percent supply chain inventory and channel management control. Inventory can be taken in a fraction of its original time, which has allowed for the implementation of monthly inventory checks at all G&P channel retail stores. Because of the increased and more efficient inventorying, out-of-stocks have been reduced and sales turnover has increased.


Pusan Newport Co. Ltd. Completes Testing of RFID-Based Unmanned Yard System

October 1, 2009

With a $100 million investment, Pusan Newport Co. Ltd. (http://www.pncport.com/eng_index.jsp) of Busan Port, Korea has finished testing an RFID-based unmanned yard system. The company wished to utilize RFID technology to reduce cost and time while increasing productivity in the yard. Based on the results of PNC’s tests, the decidedly futuristic sight of unmanned cranes carrying cargo to pre-specified shipping gates might become commonplace sooner than many would think.

The RFID system was tested in the first and second levels of PNC’s wharf. The system works like this: When a truck passes through the front gate of a wharf, a fixed RFID reader instantly and automatically identifies the truck’s freight information. The RFID system then guides the truck to its designated cargo. From there, an unmanned crane loads the cargo into the truck—but only after confirming via RFID that the truck and cargo combination is correct. The results: an almost 100 percent automated system

In total, the system includes 29 unmanned cranes and 110 RFID readers, and should be completely deployed by August. According to an official at PNC, this system will likely become the first of many to come throughout Asia

“PNC is going to offer RFID technologies to China by making a [memorandum of understanding] with ZMPC (www.zmpc.com),” the company official told Korea IT Times. “ZMPC is known as the world’s biggest company in the field of cranes.” To read the full article, visit http://www.koreaittimes.com/story/4105/first-success-rfidusn-based-automated-shpping-yard-system.