RFID optimizes warehouse processes at Scania's spare parts distribution center in Belgium. (Image: Mieloo & Alexander)

RFID Tracking in Scania's Central Spare Parts Warehouse

Increased process efficiency and optimized procedures!

For more than twelve years, Mieloo & Alexander has been supporting the well-known Swedish truck manufacturer Scania with its extensive RFID know-how and many years of project experience. At Scania's central spare parts distribution center in Opglabbeek, Belgium, the passive UHF RFID tracking system from Mojix was introduced with the aim of increasing process efficiency and optimizing workflows.

The Scania Parts Center covers more than 100,000 different spare parts over an area of 12,000 square metres. 600 employees process around 26,500 orders per day, which are then shipped to regional parts centers and distributors worldwide, as well as to European retailers and distributors of the Scania brand. The implementation is proving to be a great success.

At its central spare-parts distribution center in Opglabbeek, Belgium, Scania relies both on its flexible and reliable workforce and on robust processes and innovative technologies. To ensure that retailers, parts centers and distributors worldwide are supplied as quickly and on time as possible, the Swedish truck manufacturer aims to maximize productivity while maintaining and further improving process quality at a consistently high level. This is a major challenge, because in everyday operations, especially so-called overseas deliveries require a high level of attention from Scania's sales departments.

Spare parts are often ordered for trucks that are required to get them back into operation as quickly as possible. Any delay due to incomplete deliveries or incorrect delivery documents is disastrous for the business. An accurate and proper loading process for each delivery is crucial, which is why Scania has chosen to use RFID technology and invest in a professional system.

Responsible for the design, construction and implementation of the project is Mieloo & Alexander. The company developed the RFID applications, rolled out the Mojix system and was responsible for the entire project management in close cooperation with Scania and Mojix Inc. Furthermore, the support team of Mieloo & Alexander is in charge of the system, which has been in successful operation ever since.

The new RFID system improves processes for employees by indicating the destination of the goods (packages) as soon as they reach the export shipping warehouse. This ensures that all items in a shipment are placed as close as possible to the loading dock. Since the packages for export deliveries often contain a wide variety of spare parts and are of different sizes and dimensions, there is not always enough space in front of the loading ramp. The RFID-based real-time tracking system, which informs workers of the location of associated unit loads during loading, helps to speed up the process considerably.

The Technology

After an extensive selection and evaluation process, including an operational pilot phase lasting several months in 2012, Scania chose Mojix's passive UHF RFID tracking system. The STAR Phased Array Antenna covers the entire export shipment range and is capable of locating passive UHF tags over a distance of 200 meters using a stimulator or Mojix antennas.

These RFID antennas are installed at the three entrance gates to the shipping area and monitor all package movements in and out of the area. A network of 128 of these antennas (4 × 4 meters, at a height of 5 meters) covers the entire shipping area to locate the stored packages. RFID antennas are also installed to record the movements at the six loading ramps.

The RFID-Supported Process - Distribution Logistics Reinvented

The transport goods are selected and packed as usual. ToshibaTec RFID / barcode printers generate the barcode label and describe a Smartrac Frog 3D RFID transponder contained in the barcode labels. Packaged and labeled packages are then picked up by forklifts and driven to the export shipping area. The Mojix antennas at the entrance gates activate the transponders on the forklifts, as well as an RFID transponder that identifies the respective forklift.

The STAR antenna locates the tags and determines the transition of the packages from the export area to the commissioning area. At the same time, the RFID application on the forklift truck shows the employee the respective shipping destinations and parking areas via a terminal. The RFID system now locates each individual packaged good. If the transport goods for a delivery cannot be grouped together as a whole in the designated storage area (because there was not enough storage space available during commissioning, for example), the foreman can use the conversion application to indicate to the forklift operator which pallets should be moved to optimize the loading process.

Once all packages are ready for delivery at the corresponding picking stations, loading is approved. Now the employee can select the corresponding loading route via the RFID program on the forklift terminal. If an incorrect route has been selected, an error message is displayed; the same applies if packages have not yet been approved by customer service or if an ADR code for hazardous goods prescribes special processing.

If articles are not found, employees can use the package search function to locate missing goods. The detection rate of the RFID systems on the ramps is 99.8 percent, including around 15 percent of the items that cannot be transported by forklift and have to be carried manually into the trucks.

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Sander Merkx
Sander Merkx
Management Consulting & Co-Founder
Hoofddorp, The Netherlands
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