Manual stock checking is a thing of the past

Logistics solutions provider pH Europe has developed and implemented a new technology package, called finder, using long range RFID to track the real-time location of valuable stock.

The system which recently won the Supply Chain Category of the prestigious Information Management Awards - continuously tracks the precise location of RFID tags, fixed onto - or within - high value items.

Long range RFID tags mark a step change in logistics and tracking, and pH Europe has spent two years working on the project with Glasgow Caledonian University.

pH Europes project manager Dr. Ivelina Ivanova says: The fully automatic technology does not require staff to scan or move inventory to conduct stock checks. It makes manual stock checking a thing of the past, enabling companies to benefit from automatic tracking of stock turnover and better management of inventory costs.

pH Europe has installed a full operating system in a 25,000 square foot warehouse, part of their 20 acre operation in Lincolnshire, from which they rent intermediate bulk containers to clients in the logistics, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.

The system uses long range RFID tags that maintain active status by constantly emitting a signal, received by long range radio receivers. Each receiver actively tracks up to ten thousand RFID tags giving a precise fix on asset location down to one square metre from a range of up to1,000 metres.

Dr. Ivanova says: This technology package was complex to achieve and had to fulfil stringent requirements.

On the hardware side, the system required inexpensive long life active RFID tags and had to be compatible with fixed position and hand readers. It needed to have 433MHz frequency, be compatible with barcode and GPS, and offer data pulsing every 2 seconds to provide real time tracking.

She adds: The software to manage data flow was important, to enable real time location. Critically, the system needed to integrate with existing Management Information Systems, have customisable reporting, accessible user-data and built-in trend and KPI monitoring.

After a thorough vendor evaluation, Mantis tags and readers from RF Code Inc were selected as key components. Technically, the solution combines SQL Server 2000 and the .NET framework, with economic entry costs and true scalability.

pH Europe sales director Jack CIeghorn says: Interest in the new technology is broad, with manufacturing, warehousing and distribution companies showing interest in Finder as a way of tracking valuable stock and reducing shrinkage.

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