Written by Jill West, Vice President Strategic Communications, Impinj
The pandemic has had a major impact on every aspect of our daily lives, from the way we consume goods and services to how we make and ship the products people want and need. Manufacturers have felt the pressure to quickly increase efficiencies and automation. As a result, the evolution to the fourth industrial revolution, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0, has accelerated to better meet the market demands of today.
With the majority of manufacturing jobs done on-site, plants, warehouses, and factories around the world were forced to shut down completely or work with skeleton crews due to health and safety concerns during the height of the pandemic. Although the industry has since experienced a bit of a rebound, manufacturers are still expecting and planning for business impacts, including reduced production, supply chain disruption, staffing challenges, and continued financial uncertainty. According to the National Association of Manufacturers 2020 4th Quarter Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, production remains 3.7% below the level seen in February 2020.
As manufacturers evolve to meet the needs of 2021 and beyond, the ability to automatically track the location of warehouse assets, including components, finished products, and tools helps businesses maintain a high level of productivity with limited staff. Investing in IoT technologies and automated manufacturing solutions will help reduce loss and save money.
RAIN RFID, a battery-free wireless technology, is helping to extend the IoT into the supply chain by providing accurate real-time data about items. RAIN RFID’s unique capabilities enable thousands of items to be identified in seconds, at a distance, and without line-of-sight. RAIN RFID solutions help organizations ensure they have exactly the right items, in the right quantities, at the right locations, at the right time.
For example, Euro Pool Systems – a leader in reusable packaging in the European fresh supply chain – used RAIN RFID to automate its new Return Logistics Distribution Centre and saw impressive increases in warehouse efficiency thanks to real-time, item-level tracking of returnable transport items; accurate inventory counts at plants and stores; and faster turnaround of inbound trucks.
With more than 1 billion crates and pallets in circulation every year, Euro Pool Systems needed to increase visibility while still maintaining its high customer satisfaction standards. With its RAIN RFID solution, a delivery truck’s contents are scanned as it arrives at the depot and the driver is directed to the most efficient dock to unload. Once at the dock, the contents of each pallet or tray are scanned and added to the inventory. Finally, when pallets or trays leave the warehouse, readers scan each item, and inventory is updated again.
Another company, Reynolds – a leading wholesale fresh food provider in the UK, decided to switch to reusable plastic crates to cut down on the waste of disposable crates. The Reynolds team quickly realized customers weren’t returning crates and the replacement cost was beginning to add up. To ensure traceability of these more expensive reusable crates, Reynolds implemented a RAIN RFID solution that allows them to quickly identify which crates are missing and take action to get them back.
With the RAIN RFID solution, crate loss was drastically reduced saving Reynolds $197,000 in replacement costs within the first three months. Reynolds is projecting to save nearly half a million dollars annually.
The challenges faced by Euro Pool Systems and Reynolds serve as a microcosm for many manufacturers and providers that rely on reusable packaging to do business. The pandemic has shined a light on the need to find efficiencies and reduce unnecessary cost for businesses to not only survive but also thrive. By tracking individual assets like metal stillages, tote boxes, roll cages, pallets, trays, and other reusable transport containers in real-time with RAIN RFID, companies are able to:
- Maximize the use of available reusable transport items at any given time
- Help prevent transport assets – and their cargo – from getting lost or stolen
- Provide accountability and reduce disputes between trading partners about asset location
- Enable inventory to be taken in minutes
- Identify shortages or overstock for better management and improved efficiency
- Validate and record each individual asset and corresponding destination as it enters and exits a site
As the acceleration to Industry 4.0 continues and the demand for a reliable supply chain increases, companies that invested in IoT technologies to track their reusable packaging items have the visibility needed to quickly respond to the changing conditions caused by the pandemic.