Where do you think RFID technology is in terms of becoming a mature technology that can help improve the way companies do business?
Some large retailers, producers and transportation companies already use RFID technology to manage their internal logistic flows. RFID tagged returnable transport items (RTIs) from Container Centralen can be seen as tools to optimize logistics further as they can be tools to help manage the external logistic flows. With the RFID tagged CC Container, RFID has been implemented in an entire supply chain for the first time in history. This gives all businesses working with the RTIs in the supply chain the possibility to benefit from this technology. The horticultural supply chain consists of very different companies, ranging from the small national mom and pop business to large international corporations. Naturally, different players in the market have very different needs – also in relation to RFID. Small companies with limited levels of activities dont need the RFID for their internal asset management, but with RFID tagged transport items they will now be able to participate in supply chains where RFID is required, typically in relation to deliveries to large retail chains. In some parts of the market the RFID technology is already a natural part of the daily working processes. We see that a number of medium sized and large companies in the horticultural industry now also start using the RFID technology for their logistics after it was introduced on the CC Container. There is no doubt that the use of the technology will increase especially due to the implementation in large supply chains and due to the increased demand for control of the logistics flow. So in general, the market is currently in the first relatively slowly increasing stages in relation to the use of the RFID technology, but we expect an exponential growth with the large supply chains as the key drivers. It is already in progress.
Did Container Centralen explore the use of other technologies before choosing RFID, and if so why did you choose to utilize RFID instead of the others?
Since we have not made an electronic control before, we of course also considered bar coding. In many more stable and dry environments, bar code reading is an excellent way to control flows. However, we have all experienced examples from the super markets where we stand in line and wait a long time because bar codes on some groceries have been damaged in a way that makes them unreadable and the employee at the checkout counter needs to key in the code manually. The environment in which we operate in the horticultural industry is really tough on all stickers, like e.g. bar code labels, since they are exposed to water, wind, sun, frost, dirt etc. They would never last in the long run and our investigations showed that within just 3-6 months as much as 30-40 % of the barcode labels would be UNreadable! That would be totally unacceptable to the business requirements. Therefore RFID was chosen.
Of all the alternatives that we investigated RFID turned out to be the only solution that would work. Firstly, it was the only solution that could protect our transport items efficiently against illegal copies in the system, and secondly it was the only solution that could really optimize supply chains significantly compared to the current situation. It is not just a new license plate – it is a tool that can be used for track & trace, automated order management and more.
Have you noticed any new RFID technology innovations or more robust software solutions on the market that take advantage of RFID data?
A relatively simple and inexpensive ( 150.00), but very useful, software has recently been developed by the German supplier PANMOBIL (www.gsscanner.com). The software can be built into small cost-efficient RFID scanners and used for RTI stock management for small and medium sized companies. They scan RTIs in and out and thus keep track of their RTI stock balances and other important details.
We also see other new developments within software, hardware and services related to RFID. Some of the most significant developments for our horticultural RFID solution within the last year have been a range of specialised readers to be used under different working conditions to facilitate efficient reading processes in relation to ergonomics as well as speed and reading stability. The hardware solutions range from small handheld readers, over readers fitted on the users leg or on a long stick, and to gates or floor mats.
In your experience, are conferences like RFID Journal LIVE! Europe a good way for companies to learn about what RFID can do to help their business?
I think that it is very important to have conferences like this which concentrate on the RFID technology – where companies share ideas, challenge and inspire each other. This can be a basis for further development of the technology as well as new ways of using the technology. With the trends that we see today in the global markets, both in relation to the logistics, financial and the environmental developments, it is more important than ever to optimize our supply chains. The benefits of RFID are huge and universal: improved logistics means less waste, fuel savings and thus reduced emissions of CO2, NOx and other toxics. In other words this will save resources and money in the global economy as well as reduce the footprint of the industrialized world on the climate. I am not saying that RFID can save the world, but it is definitely an important step in the right direction.
However, I also believe that dedicated RFID conferences and other events are not always enough. In Container Centralen, we also promote RFID at industry trade shows and of course we discuss the possibilities with individual customers. As we are a supply chain company and even the market leader within horticultural logistics in Europe, we of course have a large obligation here. We need to be in the forefront to ensure that we keep having a sustainable system also in the future.
As a speaker, what other presenters are you looking forward to hearing from at RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2011?
Some of the other speakers of note are Mike Haley, BP, Carlo Nizam, Airbus, Christian Von Grone, GERRY WEBER, Carsten Sowa, Lufthansa. None of them, however, use RFID in the manner of Container Centralen. We have a speaker from KH Lloreda, Spain's largest household cleaning products company. Daniel Lancho from that company is speaking about their use of an RFID-based system to track cartons of products as they are automatically assembled onto pallets, placed onto trucks, unloaded and stored at a distribution center, reassembled onto pallets in response to a retailer's order, and again loaded onto trucks for delivery to that retailer.
In general I am looking forward to the entire event as all speeches are interesting to me for professional as well as personal reasons. Of course some of the topics are closer to our business than other. I am therefore particularly looking forward to hearing Mr. Lancho from KH Lloreda, Mr. Latief from A-Plant and Mr. Graves from PLS – but just as much to the speeches of Mr. Sowa from Lufthansa about their management of maintenance and logistics, as well as Mr. Nizam from Airbus as I find their comprehensive use of RFID very inspiring and impressive.
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