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Australian RFID pilot achieves 100 per cent read rate

By George Reynolds , 10-Jul-2007

The results of a two-month Australian pilot testing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags attached to pallets prove the technology can raise productivity and efficiency in the supply chain, the study consortium claims.

The National EPC Network Demonstrator Project (NDP) Extension was managed by GS1 Australia , a branch of the international standards-setting organization GS1 , with RMIT University in Melbourne.

During the pilot, tags were accurately read 100 percent of the time, demonstrating successful electronic proof of deliveries (ePODs), claimed the consortium.

Maria Palazzolo, chief executive officer of GS1 Australia said each pallet had a unique number and so could be accounted for individually during the process.

"This ensures that reconciliation is done to the point where you can get your full electronic proof of delivery," she said. Instead of having to write anything down and rekey it, everything is done electronically.

"Proving that RFID can be used to get a 100 percent read rate is what gave us our proof of delivery-it takes away any uncertainty. It also removes the manual checking processes, so there are additional benefits around process efficiency."

Chep, an equipment pooling firm, provided the 3,300 wooden pallets that were fitted with Impinj-supplied electronic product code (EPC) Gen 2 RFID tags, during the study, which ran from March to May.

Another participant, Telstra provided the adaptive asset management (AAM) software that was used to manage and share the RFID information. During the pilot, participants were able to check the results online, while data was sent to handheld personal digital assistants (PDA) used by Chep's truck drivers.

The tags were read by the drivers, when they picked up an order, which could be accessed by their PDA. The loads on the pallets were then delivered to participating companies, including Franklins supermarket and Masterfoods.

As each tag passed a fixed RFID reader, the information was sent to the AAM, which was then relayed using GPRS back to the drivers' PDA.

A series of coloured lights then indicated to drivers the status of the pallets, which were finally delivered.

The return process of retrieving empty pallet was also tested during the pilot. Logistics provider, Westgate, collected the empty wooden pallets from Franklins, and read the tags at its facility before delivering them back to Chep.

Some customers in the pilot reported productivity gains of 14.3 and 22.2 per cent due to reduced process times, and by the use ePODs rather than paper-based processes, while Chep estimated productivity gains of 28 per cent for the entire delivery process claimed the consortium.

Palazzolo said the most difficult part of the challenge was achieving the 100 per cent reliability, because results in the high nineties had been achieved previously, but never 100.

"If you have the right team of talented people who have some experience and know-how, supported by good software and hardware, you will find a solution and you can make RFID work in your environment," said Palazzolo.

Other participants in the pilot included office products supplier ACCO Australia , consumer packaged goods (CPG) provider Capilano Honey , Procter & Gamble , as well as logistics provider Linfox . Retriever Communications also contributed to the project.

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