Ware House Automation Management Deploying RFID

Apurva Parekh, Managing Director, Essen RFID

Apurva Parekh is at the helm of affairs at Essen RFID, having amassed over 4 decades of IT experience, right from the advent of deploying the first microprocessor MCS-4 chipset Application from Intel in 1971, to implementing leading edge 200 plus UHF RFID project executions in India/abroad. He is also the IPR owner of multiple US/Indian Patents in the RFID domain.

Occasionally, a fallacy of the Factory management is to concentrate primarily on higher production in order to achievea higher Revenue stream & better Profitability; thus losing focus on highly efficient storage/retrieval system along with low TaT for trucks within the factory premises, both of which are equally essential for achieving their ultimate objective.

While Warehousing has existed for eons, recent eCommerce higher needs and the introduction of GST will change the Warehousing concepts greatly, bringing investments into ultra large warehouses (300-500K sqft with around 35 - 40,000 pigeon holes for storage) nearer the consumer, as the differential end user prices have levelled out due to disparate rates having existed earlier among neighbouring states.

"While Warehousing has existed for eons, recent eCommerce higher needs and the introduction of GST will change the Warehousing concepts greatly"

As the warehouse size scales up, existing semimanual storage/retrieval systems become challenging and non efficient, resulting into unnecessary delays & higher costs. 3PL warehouses need to adapt to JIT deliveries which require turnaround time of maybe 45-60 minutes, with further proliferation of e -commerce demand rising from consumers and their fast expectations for deliveries.

Deployment of UHF RFID technology necessitates, tagging of pallets, location “piegeon holes”, mounting of rugged UHF Readers on forklift with dynamic read range, ISM sensors all around the warehouse to track a given forklift within 3 meters of it’s current location and a tablet mounted on fork lift. Besides this BoPT, HoPT both with tablet mounts are suitably sensor enabled for tracking.

Scenario I – Storage of Incoming goods:
Once the Server at warehouse receives a message, based on type of materials a truck is bringing in, AI Logic – Essen’s WESA based on inputs received, knows, type of material by it’s sensitivity (temperature, chemical, hazardous, flammable, high value etc.) and type of storage (drum, cans, crates, cartons etc.) and possible information as to when it is required/maybe required allocates automatic storage locations be it lower or higher level racks and proximity to loading bay. A staging area along with corresponding docking bay is allotted for the arrival of the truck. As soon as the truck has docked, multiple HoPT will unload the material, load them on RFID tagged pallets and release the truck within 20-30 minutes of it’s docking. Parallel paperwork is already processed. While material is being off loaded/stored at staging area, BoPTs will start collecting material from staging area & locations of row and column of racks are displayed for operator to take the material and drop it off at the designated location at the ground level. All free forklifts now are given instructions via Wi-Fi to pickup the materials as staged by BoPTs and based on the tag read, will automatically be allotted the location on rack level (1 to 7 -8 levels high). The forklift will read the location tag along with pallet tag and once both are synchronised, that it is the correct designated location, pallet is dropped, further noting time stamp, fork lift ID no. & driver details. This whole operation of truck unloading is executed with military precision in the shortest possible time. A typical warehouse of above mentioned capacity with upto 25 loading bays can easily handle around 300 trailers back & forth of 40’ capacity in a 12 hour day.

Scenario II – Retrieval of Outgoing goods:
Similar to above scenario, retrieval is easier as, the moment details of goods to be picked up are received, a message is sent to multiple forklifts to pickup goods from different heights/storage locations and stage them at ground level. BoPTs will then come around pickup individual pallets by identifying the RFID tags and taking them to the designated staging area near the docking bay. Each pallet is dropped there and if any labelling is required a handheld Reader such as µHandyScanna is utilised for creating a label and affixing the same. As soon as the Truck arrives, same is now loaded by multiple HoPTs in assembly line fashion, to load the truck in the shortest possible time and allow it to leave within 30-40 minutes, thus releasing the loading bay for next arrival.

One can imaging an aircraft coming in offloading passengers, their baggage/commercial cargo, food trays, garbage & re- loading new passengers, their baggage, cargo, food & other necessities and has a turnaround time of barely 30 minutes.

As customer expectations become higher for faster deliveries (Amazon now promises 4 hours in some western cities) Warehouse Management will need deployment of RFID technology as a necessity and not an option.