Alpha Baking Pilots Asset Tracking with the Kennedy Group and Orbis Corporation

Bakery tray loss is a serious challenge to many, if not most bakeries. A key step to reducing tray loss is through more effective management, and Alpha Baking is looking to do just that.

Alpha Baking, a national distributor of fresh and frozen breads, rolls and buns with four plants and multiple depots across the United States, is testing a fully integrated asset tracking solution to determine its effectiveness in reducing bakery tray loss. Prior to the pilot, Alpha Baking, based in Chicago, experienced significant tray loss each year, with no visibility to where the loss was occurring. It partnered with The Kennedy Group and ORBIS Corporation to conduct a 9-month pilot using radio-frequency identification tag (RFID) technology to track trays and determine areas of tray loss within their supply chai

The first phase of the pilot involved tagging and tracking a statistically significant sampling of trays as they moved from Alpha Baking’s production plants to its individual ship points. “As an industry, we are trying to solve a problem we can’t define, “ explained Bob McGuire, vice-president and director of logistics for Alpha Baking and chairman of the American Baking Association Fleet and Distribution Committee. “We know as an industry that we are all experiencing a great deal of tray loss, but until now, we have been unable to measure and understand those losses. The use of RFID has quantified and defined the root of the problem(s) and helped us take corrective action to better control and utilize our bakery trays at Alpha Baking.”

Using bakery trays supplied by ORBIS, the RFID system is powered by ePReusable™, The Kennedy Group’s reusable asset tracking application. The Kennedy Group supplied the RFID tags, installed the portals and created the read points for a realistic end-to-end experience. ePReusable allows Alpha Baking’s logistics team to generate reports with tray destination points, trip duration time and the average turn duration per destination.

“The Kennedy Group has identified an unfulfilled and pressing need in the bakery industry,” explained Patrick Kennedy, vice-president of marketing and sales for The Kennedy Group, an RFID solution provider, offering asset management software, tags, hardware, and professional services. “We have taken the time to understand the unique nuances of this complex industry issue and created a scalable, end-to-end solution that gives bakeries visibility of their trays throughout the bakery supply chain. And, since RFID requires no line of sight, trays can be tracked throughout the system, without any manual intervention or interruption in normal business activities.”

ePReusable™ gave Alpha Baking visibility to assets in its system, while enabling it to see loss patterns, develop corrective actions and implement new processes to mitigate tray loss and better utilize their existing trays in the future.

According to Bob Klimko, director of retail supply chain marketing for ORBIS Corporation, a leading manufacturer of plastic reusable trays, dollies and pallets for the bakery industry, “We are very excited about the benefits our bakery customers can experience with asset tracking. This pilot, conducted with our long standing partner, Alpha Baking, proved that tagging and tracking trays is effective in helping these companies better utilize their reusable assets, resulting in more turns and improving their ability to reallocate assets when and where they are needed.”

Alpha Baking has made reducing tray loss a company-wide priority and employees and supply chain partners have collaborated to effectively manage Alpha Baking’s fleet of bakery trays. According to McGuire, “This first phase is providing accountability relative to where trays are being lost or delayed in the supply chain, and we are now able to identify the ship-to locations that are not in compliance. We quickly realized that 20 percent of the non-compliant ship-to locations accounted for 80 percent of the tray issues and we are now able to create processes for greater control. People watch what we watch. If the ship-to locations know we are watching the bakery trays, then they will too.”

This first phase signifies the first pilot of its kind that proves the effectiveness and scalability of an asset tracking system for the bakery industry. Future phases may include expanding the number of trays being tagged, as well as tracking trays at the depot and route levels.

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