Although it does not quantify the gains from the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for compliance reasons, the Pilkington Brasil, global glass manufacturer for construction and automotive industries, part of the NSG Group, already celebrates the benefits of understanding the travel cycle of each package used to transport its products, and can even present this data to customers, in addition to knowing if the package is in the company or the customer.
According to Perci Afonso Catarin, executive of the supply chain of the headquarters of Pilkington Brasil, in Caçapava (SP), in the production and sales plant for the country, this was the objective achieved so far, with the system from SmartXHUB. He states that, prior to the implementation of the RFID system, the process of controlling returnable packaging was quite laborious, requiring control by invoices and paper notes, generating divergences in notes and rework.
“The control was basically carried out by the quantity of packages sent to each customer, through fiscal control. The internal availability control was carried out by physical inventories ”, points out Catarin.
For two years the company has been implanting smart RFID tags on the packaging and carrying out the readings. “In this first moment, the packages that we already have with RFID tags installed are being monitored at the exits and entrances in the company, where we have already been able to detect the location of the packages: if they are with customers, in our plant and if they have not yet been sent to customer and even packages that are stopped for maintenance ”.
Catarin explains that when the company has completed the installation of the tags in 100% of the packaging, it will be possible to view a complete overview of the location of the packaging in its handling cycles.
The Pilkington executive says that the solution’s middleware was developed by SmartXHUB, and this component only reads the tags on the input and output portals. “In one of the factories we have an integrated solution with passage sensors to identify on the same portal whether the truck is entering or leaving the factory. The biggest gain we have is with the SmartXHUB web portal”, says Catarin.
According to him, the web portal serves to inventory the racks owned by Pilkington, used to serve its customers; track the racks that pass between the company and the customers, with historical and real-time information; identify the average time of each type of rack inside and outside Pilkington; identify the number of racks that are in each customer; segregate the racks for maintenance and manage these maintenance; identify the life cycle of the racks; and automate the invoice verification process generated by the ERP management system, used by the company, and the truck load, by comparing the reading of the tags that pass through the exit portals and the contents of the invoice.
Carlos Ribeiro, CEO of the Kissimmee-based SmartXHUB, in the United States, clarifies that the system operates integrated with ERP from SAP, where shipping orders are received and, through data collectors, shipments are confirmed. “If there are no discrepancies, a command is sent to SAP to issue the invoice”.
Catarin, from Pilkington, says that SmartXHUB did all the development of the project, from the specifications of software and hardware – validated by the IT team – to structures. “He also installed and configured the software and hardware, as well as personalizing the cloud computing portal. As Pilkington had no experience with RFID, this partnership was essential for the implementation ”.
The readers are installed at the entrances and exits of the Caçapava plant, allowing you to monitor all packages that arrive and leave the plant. “We opted for readers from Zebra, as it is a stabilized brand in the market, and can even be used in other units of the group. The composition of readers varies in each portal that we have installed ”, he explains. The RFID tags were customized by SmartXHUB, are returnable and encapsulated in an ABS plastic box to withstand possible impacts from forklift forks. The recording of EPCs – electronic product codes used in RFID – and the printing of barcodes is done at the same time.
Thus, two tags of the same EPC are placed in each metallic package, to facilitate the reading inside the truck, this due to the great interference caused by the load arrangement of the metal racks, where some types are closed with steel plate in the rear and sides. The packages are returnable, so the tags are fixed and are only reused in special cases, such as, for example, a rack that is unusable and a new one in its place.
“The biggest challenge we had,” says Catarin, “was in terms of the time needed to carry out the readings. We have trucks passing through the reading portal where we must have 100% accuracy, without stopping the truck. There were several barriers that we had to investigate and find the best way out, such as: speed, configurations, positioning of the antennas and types of tags. But we were able to overcome these challenges with the help of SmartXHUB ”.
Facing the future, “we still have to continue installing the tags in 100% of our packaging,” predicts Catarin, “which is a manual and time-consuming process. In addition, we are working to make interconnections with our system, making it even easier to map the packages ”. Currently, all trucks that leave the company go through an RFID antenna portal, which reads all the packages that are in the truck. The same occurs when this truck returns from customers.
“The implementation project was a great challenge for the company”, defines Catarin, from Pilkington. “This is not a low-cost project, due to the demands of the industrial market and the amount of packaging that we want to map. But today we have already started to present this result internally and even to our customers, making the management of the packaging park something more reliable”.
Carlos Ribeiro, CEO of SmartXHUB, added that, for his company, “the successful use of our RFID platform by a corporation with Pilkington’s dimensions and reputation is not only a great honor, but the demonstration that we are on the right track in our technological development”.