2005 Supply & Demand Chain 100 Case Study  pH Europe Ltd / RF Code

Profiles in Supply Chain Enablement: Transport services company increases visibility into its containers, improves asset tracking and utilization

Profiles in Supply Chain Enablement: Transport services company increases visibility into its containers, improves asset tracking and utilization

Company: pH Europe Ltd (Huddersfield, UK)
Company Size: Small
Company Sector: Transportation/Logistics
Area(s) of Enablement: Fulfillment/Logistics, Supply Chain Integration & Infrastructure
Enabler: RF Code (Mesa, AZ)

SDCE 100 2005Case Study: pH Europe Ltd is well known for its portfolio of transport container services that a growing roster of customers employs to deliver products ranging from chemicals and pharmaceuticals to foodstuffs and industrial parts. Customers including GSK, Sun Chemical, Avecia, Johnson Matthey, AllessaChemie, Methode and AH Marks rely on pH Europe's mission-critical transportation, storage and tracking services.

Several years ago, the company began researching radio frequency identification (RFID) and GPS tracking as a way to optimize its supply chain processes. During the preliminary planning phase it was thought that a GPS solution might provide the necessary location functionality for the project, but it was quickly determined that GPS alone would prove far too expensive in the long run. The fact that GPS asset tags would also need their batteries recharged on a frequent basis would not allow a reasonable total cost of ownership (TCO).

The evolving realization at pH Europe was that the company would need to define a hybrid RFID/GPS solution featuring long-range active RFID technology at the container level and GPS at the truck level. In addition, the system would need to be flexible enough to easily incorporate future RFID, cellular, remote sensor and mesh network data for future, evolutionary data distribution.

Interfacing with Customer Supply Chains

To meet these requirements, pH Europe turned to systems integrator JDS Professional Services, which assembled a solution that included a data management platform from Mesa, Ariz.-based RF Code dubbed TAVIS 2.1, as well as CALTS 1.1 Asset Tracking Suite (from JDS), Mantis RFID tags and readers (from RF Code), and .NET framework and SQL Server (from Microsoft).

By utilizing the TAVIS data management platform from RF Code, JDS Professional Services was able to configure a solution for pH Europe that increases visibility into the company's container fleet. Today, pH Europe puts industrial containers into service at lightening speed and can follow them as they interface with the supply chains of their customers.

Beyond the optimization of their internal wireless asset tacking system, pH Europe now can offer their own customers an "asset tracking service" whereby they track and monitor mission critical assets as an additional revenue stream. They can offer this service, which they have branded "Finder," with the confidence of knowing that the system can integrate with the broad variety of wireless data systems that they might encounter at customer sites.

Verifying Loads, Tracking Assets

Now, as trucks are loaded with intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), the administrators at pH Europe receive real-time, positive verification of the load immediately. Each truck moves through an automated check out that is completed in less than five seconds as it leaves pH Europe property. In the time it takes to drive through the gate, all assets are accounted for, even on a fully loaded truck carrying 44 IBCs.

Since the TAVIS-powered solution was brought on line, it has enabled each IBC to generate maximum revenue for the company, according to RF Code. The pH Europe inventory does not sit idle due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once rented, each container is prepped and ready to be put into service before the trucks even arrive. And after trucks arrive, the IBCs are quickly on their way without the need for human interaction beyond physically loading them. In addition, hazardous materials, dangerous chemicals and highly regulated liquids can be matched with their own individual safety data sheets at the time they are rented.

The entire project took place over 20 months from inception to completion, including applying for — and receiving — a government grant. The actual installation and testing process was less than four months, and the initial phase of the supply chain project was completed for less than $100,000. Subsequently, the pH Europe implementation won the IM2004 Supply Chain project of the year for its internal benefits to the company.