As Volumes Grow, Shipping Line Turns to RFID to Accelerate Throughput at L.A. Port

APL taps WhereNet solution to manage increasing imports, boost productivity at one of the largest container terminals in North America

APL taps WhereNet solution to manage increasing imports, boost productivity at one of the largest container terminals in North America

Santa Clara, CA — April 21, 2006 — Global container shipping line APL is seeing productivity gains as a result of using real-time locating system (RTLS) and marine terminal software from WhereNet to help manage its 292-acre Global Gateway South terminal at the port of Los Angeles, WhereNet has announced.

The WhereNet installation at APL's Global Gateway South terminal is the largest RTLS deployment in the world and the first-ever use of active RFID technology in a "wheeled" terminal, that is, one that predominantly stores containers on chassis instead of stacking them on the ground.

Because the WhereNet system lets APL track and locate its container handling equipment and chassis, and provides real-time visibility of the entire yard inventory, APL has been able to improve service to truckers while increasing container throughput, WhereNet said.

APL's success in this area contributed to the California Trucking Association (CTA) recently naming the Global Gateway South terminal as the "Fastest and Best Overall Marine Terminal" at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

"In an industry where every minute counts, reducing the time needed to locate a container from several hours down to a few minutes or seconds is a major breakthrough for our operations," said Jack Cutler, port manager at APL's Global Gateway South Terminal. "In addition to the obvious cost savings, the WhereNet system expedites throughput and essentially increases the capacity of our yard — without adding real estate — as we now have real-time information about available slots in our yard at all times."

Real-Time Visibility Improves Customer Service

While most marine terminals store containers primarily in stacks, APL's Global Gateway South terminal is mostly a wheeled environment. By storing containers on chassis, APL offers its customers a "self-service" approach that lets them enter the facility and pick up the container at their convenience without having to wait for the container to be pulled from a stack.

Given this service arrangement, APL has affixed WhereNet's WhereTag transmitters to more than 30,000 chassis that service Southern California intermodal and distribution facilities, as well as to its entire inventory of terminal trucks.

A local infrastructure of more than 80 wireless WhereLAN locating access points and WherePort devices at 12 entry and eight exit gates enables the WhereNet system to automatically recognize when a chassis is entering or leaving the facility. The WhereNet system provides real-time tracking of each onsite chassis and automatically updates the chassis location when it is parked.

Expediting the Vessel-to-Yard Process

The WhereNet RTLS-based solution at APL replaces outmoded technology that utilized tracking equipment to scan each row of containers — a process that could take several hours.

Now, when a container is unloaded from an APL ship and placed onto a chassis, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union marine clerk associates the container, chassis and yard tractor into APL's terminal operating software. A driver then transports the container and chassis to the yard and disconnects from the chassis.

The yard tractor is equipped with sensors, and when the tractor disconnects from the chassis, the associated container is immediately located to a specific parking stall. Additionally, the WhereTag attached to the chassis transmits location data every few minutes. Because APL knows the exact location of each chassis, they can quickly tell outside truckers the location of their containers within the yard, improving on-time cargo delivery to customers.

According to the CTA survey of truckers, APL operates the fastest terminal in Southern California, taking into account the amount of time truckers spend at a terminal delivering one container and receiving another.

"Anyone familiar with the record volume of containers entering and leaving the port on a daily basis can appreciate the tremendous value that our technology provides by solving the 'unable to locate' problem that has traditionally plagued these terminals," said John Rosen, director of product marketing for WhereNet.

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 insights into how the top procurement organizations align with their company's broader business to make themselves invaluable, read "Getting to World-class by Getting a Seat at the Table," the Executive Memo column the October/November 2005 issue of Supply and Demand Chain Executive.