Wireless Tracking System Aims to Reduce Supply Chain Logjams at Marine Terminals

SSA Marine deploying WhereNet solution; automated processing provides additional support for Homeland Security

SSA Marine deploying WhereNet solution; automated processing provides additional support for Homeland Security

Santa Clara, CA  April 5, 2005  Radio frequency identification (RFID) specialist WhereNet Corp. has rolled out a new solution intended to help reduce the logjams building up at the nation's marine terminals by automating processes for tracking and managing containers moving through yards.

SSA Marine, the largest privately held container terminal operator and cargo handling company in the world, has already signed up to deploy WhereNet wireless infrastructure and the provider's marine terminal solution at four West Coast ports this year.

Breaking the Logjam

The world's port facilities are working to cope with increasing import/export traffic as global trade inexorably continues its upward trend, and this challenge is being further complicated by the arrival of new oceangoing vessels capable of hauling up to 8,000 twenty-foot-equivalent (TEU) containers into a port at a time.

"Marine terminals are a major choke point for supply chains across the country, and the problem is getting worse," said John Rosen, director of product marketing for WhereNet. "With new-generation 8,000-TEU vessels  which require a line of trucks 40 miles long to offload  bound for our ports every day, marine terminals are scrambling to keep up."

Ed DeNike, chief operating officer for SSA Terminals, agreed with Rosen. "Solving a Rubik's Cube seems simple compared to keeping track of the stacks and stacks of containers moving through marine terminal yards today," DeNike said, adding, "This puzzle is getting more and more difficult to solve with each passing day."

DeNike noted that, with imports expected to double by 2010, marine terminal operators have no choice but to invest in technology to try to keep up with the onslaught of inbound product from Asia.

Automating "Eyes and Ears"

WhereNet's marine terminal solution uses active RFID "WhereTag" devices and a local infrastructure of wireless "WhereLAN" locating access points to provide real-time location and status information on containers. Because marine terminals must track tens of thousands of containers, often stacked five high and six "lanes" wide, across hundreds of acres in marine terminals, making it impractical to tag the ever-changing lineup of containers cycling through the facility, WhereNet took the approach of "virtually tagging" the containers by continuously monitoring every piece of container handling equipment in the yard to keep track of when and where containers are moved.

The system incorporates sensors on container handling equipment and feeds location information and optical character recognition data into business intelligence applications to filter irrelevant data and calculate the exact location and status of containers in a marine facility in real time, WhereNet said.

Exception monitoring allows the system to perform with minimal human intervention while acting as the "eyes and ears" of the terminal operating system (TOS), providing constant visibility and status information and automating the workflow for marine terminal operators, according to WhereNet. When the TOS needs data about a container, the WhereNet system passes a simple message to the TOS in a manner that it can understand.

"WhereNet provides a critical foundational infrastructure that enables marine terminals to maximize landlocked yards and expedite throughput by providing constant visibility and status information about every container, no matter where it moves, across expansive, congested marine terminals," added DeNike.

Improving Service...and Security

WhereNet said that by replacing manual, error-prone, latent data collection processes with automated, real-time status and location data about every container and mobile asset in a marine terminal, the marine terminal system can enable the TOS software and terminal personnel to optimize yard operations, increasing throughput while realizing cost savings. In addition, the system can help the terminal operators to offer better customer service while coping with ever-increasing volumes of imports and improving security in line with Homeland Security regulations.

"As the 'eyes and ears' of the terminal operating system, WhereNet's Marine Terminal Solution helps automate and optimize time-sensitive freight movements to increase throughput, cut costs and reduce congestion while also providing an extra level of security," said Rosen.

Pricing for the WhereNet wireless system and marine terminal management solution is based on the configuration requirements of a customer's system and the size of the installation; a small WhereNet system begins at approximately $500,000. The WhereNet marine terminal solution is available immediately.

Additional Articles of Interest

 For more information on wireless tracking solutions for the supply chain, see "Needle in a Supply Chain Haystack," the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business (now Supply & Demand Chain Executive) magazine..

— For more information on trends relating to radio frequency identification (RFID), follow this link for an extensive listing of SDCExec.com articles, featuring the latest research findings on the RFID, including adoption, return on investment and barriers to implementation.

 For a contrary view of the future of the RFID market, see the article "The O'RFID Factor: A 'No Spin' Look at Where Radio Frequency Identification Is Headed," in the October/November 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

 Imminent terrorist attacks or no, your competitive advantage demands that you secure your company's supply chain. Read more in "Supply Chain Security: Is Your Company Complacent or Engaged?," in the February/March 2005 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

 For a look at how Tyco Fire & Security is tackling trade compliance issues in its global supply chain, see "Turning Global Trade Compliance Into a Competitive Advantage," in the August/September 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

 For more information on the challenges and opportunities presented by increasingly global supply chains, see the special in-depth report in the August/September 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive, which includes the following articles:

 For more information on the global supply chain, with a focus on security issues, see "Building the Secure Supply Chain," the Net Best Thing article in the June/July 2003 issue of iSource Business (now Supply & Demand Chain Executive) magazine.

 For more information on the latest trends in the logistics space, see the article "The Analyst Corner: Fulfillment & Logistics" in the October/November 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.