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CASE STUDY: Arcotec

In an world-first, Arcotec combines RFID and geolocation in warehouses.

Arcotec bw vzw profile

Arcotec – an adapted work company – is active since 1966 in the field of production and subcontracting of a great variety of products using complex logistics processes. This non-profit association located in Bruges employs 420 persons, 85% of whom are disabled people.

Arcortec developed a project to implement a solution to optimize and automate the whole logistic flow: while each pallet is identified in the storehouse, all their movements in that building are also followed.
Until now, there was no specific procedure to store the products. The items were not always correctly identified and there were huge wastes of time to search them in the storehouse.
When Arcotec made the decision to solve this problem, it wanted to record the pallets movements in the storehouse thanks to a standard barcode system with printers and scanners.
But this solution was too limited because of the particularity of the company. Arcotec has indeed another challenge to take up, which is the same for each adapted work company: the different ability of its workers. The new solution had to be user-friendly to limit errors when goods were recorded and moved. What is more, the new system had to take temporary workers into account. Those people, who often work with a minimum training, had to be efficient during peak workload periods. Regarding those elements, Arcotec had the idea to implement a system which goes further than standard barcode systems.
The solution is a combination of harmonized processes and innovative technologies, which not only enables the company to identify pallets but also to follow their movements in the whole storehouse.


A WORLD-FIRST

The solution is a combination of harmonized processes and innovative technologies, which not only enables the company to identify pallets but also to follow their movements in the whole storehouse.
When a pallet arrives at the storehouse, it is directly equipped with a RFID tag, which contains information about the goods on the pallet. The 2 sensors on the forklifts enable the driver to know exactly which pallet he is loading.
However, the greatest innovation is in the unique combination of 2 technologies: RFID and geolocation. Etilux replaced barcode technique by active and passive RFID technology. Ubisense calls that combination Ultrawideband technology and says it offers much higher results than standard RFID technology or WiFi. Thanks to this technology each pallet movement can be followed without human intervention.
Technically, 4 RFID antennas have been mounted on each forklift and 19 sensors have been placed in the storehouse. (Those 4 antennas and those 19 sensors are independent from each other: 4 antennas for passive RFID – to recognize pallets – and 19 sensors for geolocation). The information coming from the ERP system are transmitted to the vehicle mounted terminal on the forklift via WiFi.
When a pallet moves, the geolocation system records the departure and arrival locations. Each movement can be followed and visualized in real time, thanks to the geolocation tag on the forklift.


INTEGRATION WITH ERP SYSTEM (MICROSOFT DYNAMICS AX)



Ad Ultima and Silicon Brain have developped real time integration between the ERP system (Microsoft Dynamics AX) and the geolocation system (Ubisense). The driver receives from the ERP system the instruction, that indicates him, which pallet has to be moved, thanks to the Vehicle Mounted Computer on the forklift. If the driver loads a wrong pallet, he automatically receives a warning.
Once the pallet has been moved, the information is automatically transmitted to the Microsoft Dynamics AX storage system: the data are automatically transmitted to the location parameters of the ERP system.


"We searched a lot to reach a precision of 30 cm. That result exceeds our first expectations" Jan Staat, for Silicon Brain and Etilux, said.


ADVANTAGES

Previously, Arcotec lost a lot of time to search items in the storehouse: that era is in the past. Alain Nauwelaerts is delighted about it: "Thanks to the new system, we think we have spared a full-time worker just because searches and corrections disappeared. The error risk is now minimized".
In the whole logistic process, there are only 4 operations for which the worker must make a decision himself.
However, the system allows the worker a certain freedom. "The driver can decide if he accepts the task or not and in which order he does his tasks. But every time he makes a mistake, he is warned" Stefaan Cappelle, Arcortec IT manager, said. He also mentionned the advantages for the customer: "The waiting time for trucks has also been strongly reduced"

 

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