The RFID tags not only include EPC identification numbers, but also tracking information relevant to the shipping history of the merchandise, such as production facility/lot number, item number, ocean bill of lading manifest information, warehouse entry/exit gate, warehouse bin location and shipping purchase order. When orders are shipped to retail customers, each carton is tagged again with an RFID plate that is then scanned onto master outbound pallet labels.
Megatrux has equipped five of its dock doors with Motorola RFID readers, which scan the pallet tags as shipments are loaded onto the trucks. Large LCD display screens mounted nearby provide a confirmation message as each pallet moves through the portal, as well as alerts if a pallet is loaded onto the wrong truck. Scanning the outbound RFID tags prompts the system to close the order, adjust inventory, send advance shipping notices (ASN) and issue customer invoices automatically.
By automating the shipping and receiving process, Megatrux has been able to improve order accuracy and operational efficiency, and provide a real-time audit trail to reduce shipment disputes and chargebacks. The company estimates it will save between $50,000 and $100,000 per year at the Rancho Cucamonga facility (its busiest location, which ships more than 1 million cartons to Wal-Mart annually), and Pelle hopes to expand the RFID deployment to other Megatrux facilities for additional applications. Megatrux customers also benefit from RFID through real-time tracking of their inventory and compliance with retailer mandates.
Easing the Grind of Compliance
A secret recipe of spices sets sausage maker Odom's Tennessee Pride apart from its competitors, but its logistics operations set it apart from other companies that need to provide RFID shipping labels to comply with customer requirements.
Tennessee Pride uses a dedicated cold storage 3PL provider to distribute its products to retail customers. The 3PL did not have any RFID capabilities, which required Tennessee Pride to develop its own system to tag cases and cartons before they were transferred to the 3PL.
"We investigated and found it would cost us more in the long-term to outsource our RFID labeling. We knew it was best to bring RFID capability into our plant," says Mike Hader, director of information technologies at Odom's Tennessee Pride. "We were interested in using RFID not only to meet the mandate, but also to improve our own processes."
The company decided to go with Rush Tracking System, which integrated Zebra Technologies' printer/encoders and RFID middleware from OATSystems into Tennessee Pride's production lines and industrial control system. The system passes data from Tennessee Pride's ERP applications to a printer/encoder on the production line, which generates a carton label with bar code and human readable information, plus an EPCglobal Gen 2-standard RFID tag. An automated applicator from Weber Marking Systems then applies the smart label to the moving carton at production speeds.
After cartons are automatically labeled, the legacy conveyor and industrial control systems route them to the appropriate palletizing station. Once the pallet has been robotically stacked and wrapped, workers use a cart-mounted printer/encoder to produce the pallet label, which is hand-applied. Labeled pallets are then brought through an RFID portal reader from Motorola for order validation prior to releasing them for shipment. The result has been that Tennessee Pride met its goal of compliance without compromise. Legacy operations continue to run as quickly and efficiently as before, and the RFID system is running even more smoothly than Hader expected.