RFID technology on plastic pallet pooling

RFID technology on plastic pallet pooling

Liverpool: PLS, plastic pallet rental and management services, is offering RFID-enabled plastic pallet pooling as standard to its customers – a move believed to be a European first.

PLS, a subsidiary of Bibby Distribution, says that by adopting this advanced method of asset tracking, customers can achieve greater visibility of pallets as they move through the supply chain.
This results in increased productivity, better inventory management and, ultimately, reduced costs.

“It’s about making assets work harder,” said Jon Graves, general manager of PLS. “While the technology has been around for many years, the cost characteristics have been prohibitive; however, these issues have now been addressed. Cost and performance are now at a level which makes the adoption of RFID tracking a logical development.

“RFID gives a greater level of control and visibility than more traditional systems used to track pallets. By listening to our customers, we have found that they are particularly keen to see a more comprehensive level of data by which to improve the performance of their supply chains. RFID is a more accessible technology and provides the ideal solution to the complex issues they face,” added Graves.

Each pallet is fitted with two Gen 2 Electronic Product Code (EPC) compliant passive RFID tags. Traceability is also improved as each pallet is also sequentially numbered and bar coded.

The use of EPC compliant tags enables the PLS pallet to be integrated into the customer’s supply chain and RFID systems. This generates additional efficiencies, such as assisting in product tracking and automatic inventory updates within the customer’s supply chain, as well as when pallets reach the end customer.

PLS – which has been involved in a four-year development programme with the technology – says the move to plastic pallets, over the traditional wooden variation, is gathering pace as companies become increasingly aware of the hygienic, economic and environmental benefits. Inefficiencies in identifying lost and misplaced pallets, which can often lead to erroneous customer billing and inaccurate records on usage rates, have also been areas of concern.

“There may have been reluctance by some customers to adopt the use of plastic pallets and other returnable systems due to the cost of lost equipment. However, for those faced with annual outlays in excess of £50,000 for lost pallets, this technology could quickly prove indispensable,” Graves says.

“The motivation to develop and introduce RFID tracking, which will now be offered as standard, comes back to transparency, and enabling our customers to become more efficient and precise in their operations.

“As we develop new pools of equipment in new markets, we will continue to base this around RFID and exploit the technology to realise further opportunities. There are many ways to use the data generated, over and above simply tracking assets, and we will be working with customers to build on this and respond to industry-specific challenges.”

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