Norsk Lastbrer AS Pool (NLP), a Norwegian organisation managing nationwide pallet leasing for retailers and manufacturers, is piloting RFID tags for tracking plastic pallets and totes. The pilot covers two food factories, Maaraud and Finsbrten, and two distribution centres for the Coop retail chain.
NLP was established in 2006 to reduce the environmental footprint of logistics operations in the Norwegian, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) supply chain. The RFID pilot is managed by Hrafn. The fixed RFID readers are provided by Impinj and the antennas by Intermec. The pilot utilizes UPM ShortDipole UHF EPC Gen2 RFID tags, which are specifically designed to deliver stable high performance in supply chain management applications.
All four corners of the plastic pallets are embedded with a UPM ShortDipole tag. Pallets loaded with goods are destined for either of two RFID-enabled Coop DCs. Handheld readers read the tags and encode them with the Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) into tag's user memory part. The readers transmit the ID number linked to the shipping details to the company's back-end system as well as to EPCIS software, where the data is stored and made available for web access. The loaded pallets pass through a reader portal as they are transferred to trucks. The portal reads each pallet's tags, confirming that the goods are being shipped and forwarding the information to Fosstrak software.
RFID technology increases visibility in the pallet users' processes, which helps minimize pallets loss. The costs for the reader infrastructure are included in NLP's pallet leasing fees, so the customer doesn't need to invest in a reading system. NLP offers standard readers from Intermec, and customers can use the hardware to optimize their internal operations.
So far, Norwegian FMCG companies have already used approximately 150,000 tagged plastic pallets leased by NLP without using RFID infrastructure to read the tags. During the pilot, which runs until May 2011, the participating companies will be able to track their products through the supply chain in real time, from site to retailers. NLP is targeting to standardize RFID infrastructure package suitable for any of the 800 or so facilities in Norway's consumer goods supply chain, including warehouses, DCs and retail stores.
NLP also plans to exploit RFID technology in its own operations, at the organization's washing and repair stations. "Pallets pass through RFID portals when entering and exiting the facility. Pallet repairs will be recorded by handheld readers to input and store information about each repair," says Geir Vevle, CTO, Hrafn. NLP will also introduce RFID in order to charge pallet users appropriate rental and handling fees, since RFID readers will record the exact time a pallet entered or left a particular facility. "A manual process can often be as inaccurate as 1 to 5 percent.
The ROI derived from the ability to automatically record arriving and departing pallets enables the RFID infrastructure to pay for itself immediately," Vevle says.
Lexit Group is installing and integrating the hardware and providing software which links users' back-end information, such as the order number and ship-to-location Global Location Number (GLN) code with the pallets'
tag ID numbers. Telenor Ojects's Shepherd platform links data from read events to the EPCIS software, while also providing hardware monitoring by detecting errors such as connectivity problems with a reader or antennas that are out of service.
"The pilot tracks only the movements of pallets. The next step is the development of software which enables users to link pallets with the actual goods loaded onto them and track their products' movements," says Tom Romanich, IT Business Development Manager, NLP. By sharing data between suppliers and retailers, receipt and dispatch become more efficient and accurate.