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Exel deploys RFID-based yard management system from Motorola & PINC

Yard management has long been a sweet spot for RFID technology, and the folks at Exel recently implemented an RFID-based system at a multi-customer trans-load facility in Southern California. The 300-space facility serves mostly as a deconsolidation center, unloading sea containers and shipping materials for points across North America for retail customers.

Exel partnered with Motorola for the RFID hardware and solutions provider PINC Solutions to develop its yard management system. The team implemented a cost-effective solution focused on advanced asset location capabilities using real time location systems (RTLS), rather than utilizing the full capabilities of more traditional and static yard management systems.

The project took less than four months to implement and required a limited amount of information technology hardware and software to support the operations. Key system elements include:

• A gate management module at the entrance to the facility

• Tracker modules for the yard trucks that move trailers and containers around the site

• A software system for administrative users and customer service representatives that allows for yard visibility, customizable fields and easy configuration

• Use of a web-based software as a service (Saas), eliminating the need for on-site servers

RTLS determines the location of assets on a constant and recurrent basis. It is a system comprised of RFID tags attached to trailers and associated computing software that determines the position of an RFID device (tag) on a trailer. The system is capable of reporting the position of the RFID tag within seconds.

Trailers from various shippers arrive at the facility, and upon arrival, each receives a temporary RFID asset tag. The fleet trailer and shipment information (i.e., SCAC code and trailer number) are associated with that specific RFID tag. The trailer is then moved directly to the assigned parking spot or zone, or to a dock door.

Yard trucks equipped with RFID readers and GPS receivers serve as the tracker module, and maintain and detect the location of yard assets and shipments, driver details, arrival and exit times, and more. When trailers exit the facility, tags are removed. In addition to being cost effective, the application was especially unique because the RFID readers were mobile on the yard trucks rather than stationary, as is typical in most passive RFID applications. It also relied on converging technologies utilizing WiFi (802.11x), RFID and GPS systems to communicate.

The system performs yard counts on an ongoing basis and provides email notification of events. All documentation is digitally stored and searchable. CSRs have quick and easy access to high-level information, an appointment scheduling capability that reduces data entry during check-in, and highly accurate trailer location data.

Click here to read the full case study.

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