The sight and sound of RFID and real-time visibility

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The sight and sound of RFID and real-time visibility

Global logistics specialist TNT has outlined its vision for the future of RFID integration, and detailed how it wants to establish itself as a ‘thought leader’ in the industry.

Sybren Tuinstra strategic process manager for TNT, unveiled the company’s vision by saying: “We want to establish TNT as a thought leader in the industry by demonstrating our ability to embrace new technology and develop innovative services for our customers.”

He went on to say that: “RFID is no magic, but we want to be innovative beyond what already exists.” He described how RFID technology adds “sound” to the supply chain. Likening it to the silent movie era of early Hollywood, he said that when sound came in, it revolutionised the industry, he felt that RFID would have a similar effect by adding visibility to the supply chain. He detailed how a supply chain employing purely bar coding operations, can be very labour intensive and the visibility of products is restricted within the system, only coming to the surface at key points in the chain. “RFID will make things much simpler.” He said. “It’s like going back to the old days, when a worker could just pick up a box and move it without having to scan it first.”

Terry McIntyre, RFID project leader for TNT Logistics, also introduced a very detailed account of his involvement with a major RFID pilot project at the 1,300,000 sq ft Ford Motor Company ‘Heritage’ plant in North America, and spoke about how the project (which is one of several funded by TNT) is experimenting with both ‘active’ and ‘passive’ RFID tags, to help maintain visibility over the supply chain. When asked if Europe would see a similar project implemented, McIntyre said: “There is some discussion for large automotive assembly plants in Europe, but I am unable to say which at this time.”

Tuinstra said: “Maybe in the future we can accept an “inventory in motion” concept, where we can take parcels from a supplier before they actually have a destination, but this is purely concept thinking.”

For the future he said that there are plans to adopt the forthcoming Gen 2 tags, pre-coded passive tags and improved RFID readers. He added though that “barcode is still there, and will be for some time. Why throw something out if it works fine?” He said that he expects it to be a long time before RFID active and passive tags replace barcodes, but said how TNT prefer to use them in cooperation with each other. When asked why TNT were taking the initiative with RFID, he said: “We can wait for the others or we can do it ourselves and set the standard.”

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