Advanced RFID Track and Trace Solution
October 18th, 2018
Plant Access is growing its competitive edge using an industry-first RFID solution. Plant Access provides its services utilising a unique steel stillage design used to pick, cross-dock and deliver nursery plants to Bunnings Warehouse locations across Victoria and South Australia.
Weeding out manual processes
Plant Access manages the orders and provides the steel stillages that are used to transport plant products from over 67 nursery supplier sites to Bunnings stores. Shipments from different suppliers are consolidated at the Plant Access cross dock facility before orders are transported to Bunnings locations. Plant Access has thousands of re-usable steel stillages. Knowing their exact location and the status of orders was a serious challenge for Plant Access under a legacy paper-based manual ordering system.
A new automated tracking system was necessary to have accurate and instant visibility to their stillage assets and the products they were transporting.
A flourishing future with RFID
“Plant Access commissioned us to design a system to track the tailor-made steel stillages, which would allow real time visibility of customer orders across the supply chain,” said Geoffrey Ramadan, Managing Director, Unique Micro Design (UMD). UMD is an experienced developer and integrator of Barcoding, RFID, Cloud Computing and IoT solutions. “Following successful testing of Honeywell’s RFID technology, Plant Access decided to roll out a pilot automated track and trace system supported by our cloud network”.
The stillages are now equipped with Honeywell IT75 ruggedized metal-mount UHF RFID tags. So when scanned they feed real time track and trace information to the Plant Access cloud. The pilot system permits the staff to download orders from the cloud and to capture the data by RFID-enabled Honeywell CN70 mobile terminals. The handhelds are used in the nursery to pick and pack orders, scan the RFID tags on packed stillages and finally register the order as packed in the cloud. Plant Access is notified that the order is ready for pick-up and transportation. The RFID portal at Plant Access’s cross dock is fitted with Honeywell IF61 and IF2 industrial readers to capture the RFID tags on the stillages as trucks pass through the entry or exit portal. When RFID tags are read by the portal it sends real time track and trace information to the cloud automatically. Trucks are loaded with up to 100 stillages with the portal reading up to 40 tags per second. The RFID tags are applied on selected locations on the stillages to achieve a 100% read rate by the portal when trucks are passing.
The major benefit of the new Plant Access pilot system is improved visibility into where stillages are located – ranging from those that are new (not yet picked and packed), nursery-fulfilled (picked and packed), arrived at the cross dock (read at the entry portal), exited cross dock (read at the exit portal) or delivered (when the customer reports that the order has arrived). The real time notification RFID solution is helping Plant Access to maximize resource allocation, including scheduling the right truck size for order deliveries, planning out route usage and reducing lost or misplaced stillages. Real-time information also allows detecting immediately any items being sent in the wrong consignment when trucks are exiting the cross dock, which prevents costly delivery mistakes.
Customer service has been boosted for Bunnings, who are now able to look up quickly their order on the web portal to track what is being delivered. At the Plant Access cross dock, the time and labour intensive task of manually inputting data when an order arrives has been significantly reduced and errors have been eliminated under the new automated system.