RFID-enabled logistics solutions are being developed by companies such as EAM RFID, a subsidiary of life vest manufacturer EAM Worldwide. EAM began adding RFID tags to its life vests in 2007 for its internal manufacturing, inspection and shipping processes. “The real-time visibility we get from tags has allowed us to reduce our testing and automate time-consuming tasks like inspections,” says John Hatzis, a senior software developer. “When we pack an order, if 40 vests are supposed to go into the box, we know that 40 vests go into a box.”
When EAM customers receive a shipment, they use an RFID reader or portal to capture the serial number of the vests in a carton, their expiration dates and any other relevant information on the tag without opening the box. “It dramatically reduces receiving time,” says Hatzis.
Meanwhile, FedEx has rolled out a GPS- and cellular-enabled sensor called SenseAware that allows a shipper to track the location and condition of critical parts in real time.
While an RFID system loses track of the location of a tag between scans, the SenseAware product uses GPS technology to track a shipment's location and cellular capabilities to communicate its location. The sensor also tracks the temperature and barometric pressure for sensitive products.
“If a part is coming from a warehouse that's 80 miles from the airport, the AOG department can 'geofence' the route and get an alert if the truck goes off route,” says Chris Swearingen, marketing manager for the SenseAware solution. “They can receive an alert when it arrives at the airport and know that it arrives at the right location. If a mechanic doesn't receive the part, he can look on his screen and find out it was delivered to the other side of the warehouse and go get it.”
SenseAware is carrier-agnostic and enables AOG planners to access a dashboard on their computer to track all of their shipments in real time.
“We're enabling customers to monitor high-value shipments and make real-time decisions in their supply chains that they couldn't in the past,” says Swearingen. “Our CEO said way back in 1978 that the information about a package was as important as the package itself. This is taking logistics to that next level.”