Barcode Tracking of Reusable Bins Proves Fruitful

Buckhorn Knockdown Bins Combined with Tracking Solution from The Kennedy Group Provide Winning Solution for Watermelon Grower

Shortly after leading watermelon producer Global Produce made the switch from wood pallets and expendable corrugated sleeves to returnable plastic bulk containers, they began to experience problems with empty bin return from customers, ranging from a two week return lag to not returned at all.

With the prospect of purchasing additional bins and procuring corrugated expendables as a stop gap which would destroy ROI., Global reached out to reusable packaging supplier Buckhorn Inc. Buckhorn, which had supplied the 11,000 reusable knockdown bins for the grower’s system, in turn put Global in touch with The Kennedy Group, a specialist in labels as well as reusable packaging tracking technologies.

Decades earlier, The Kennedy Group had become involved with reusables through the invention of a placard for reusable packaging that eliminated the problem of painfully trying to remove unwanted old, potentially confusing labels from containers. From that, indicates Kevin Marrie, Director of Sales for The Kennedy Group, his company became involved with container nameplates, and ultimately became immersed in the RFID area. Today, The Kennedy Group has a state of the art test facility where companies can come to perform concept testing.

When it comes to automated data capture, Kevin explains, the two current solutions of choice are barcode or RFID. As for which one makes best sense, he states that it is necessary to review the current flow of the returnable in the supply chain from start to finish to start again. He looks at issues such as whether hand scans can be accomplished at all necessary steps in the current workflow, as well as issues around volume of reads required, including labor and accuracy requirements.

In the case of Global Produce, only a maximum of 500 bins were being shipped daily to seven distribution centers, so the simpler, less expensive and easier to integrate barcode solution made perfect sense. Durable barcode labels run from $0.05 to $0.10, Kevin says, while durable RFID labels run more in the $0.20 to $0.30 range. After watermelons are washed and loaded into bins, the barcodes are scanned and weighed. The bin weight is associated with that bin. Finished bins are staged in a cool holding area to await shipment. Once assigned, the full bins are scanned to a load, allowing Global Produce to know where the bin is going, when it was shipped, along with bin weight and packing date.

Empty bins returning to Global Produce are scanned, allowing it to record returns from each Distribution Center, as well as any damage trends associated with any of the DCs.

Kevin states that a simple change to Global’s invoicing software was all that was required to effectively track the bins. After the tracking system was implemented, return rates quickly jumped, and additionally, bins that had been missing now found their way back to the grower.

Previous corrugated sleeves and wood pallets.

Previous corrugated sleeves and wood pallets.

 

Buckhorn reusable plastic bins after the new containers were introduced.

Buckhorn reusable plastic bins after the new containers were introduced.

Closeup of the durable container barcode.

Closeup of the durable container barcode.

This case study was presented by Kevin Marrie of The Kennedy Group at the 2014 Reusable Packaging Pavilion.