Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Increasing freight management efficiency

An Indian freight management company Ameya Logistics' CFS which is located at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, near Mumbai, stores and delivers import, export and bonded containers and cargo to more than 200 different customers. In 2011 this company increased its operational efficiency by deploying RFID based systems, developed in-house, to manage its resources effectively. Any shipment spends on average 12 days in the yard and during that it is moved from 2 to 6 times to make way for arriving and departing shipments. The old system was manual and was not a good utilization of storage space as well as time. Now, a radio frequency tag is attached to consignment when it enters the yard and location is tracked throughout. The system has helped the company by reducing the time to locate the shipments as well as by determining empty slots for newly arrived containers. It has also increased their customer coordination by sharing data that enable them to locate their containers at any time. Further it reduces the amount of time for clearance from Customs Department which is very valuable for the recipients of consignments [1].

On a larger and global scale the freight tracking is not possible with just one technology. Rather there are several technologies that are merged together to make a unified tracking system. Current technologies in use are

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) capture, store, analyze and report geographic information
Global Positioning System (GPS), technology in which 3 satellites orbiting around the earth communicate with the receiver and determine the position using the distance through process called trilateration.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), technology in which small chips are attached to goods and information stored in it is transmitted over pre-determined radio frequency channel.
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is network of devices that connect through radio frequency.

This drill downs to wide area and local area tracking due to certain limitations of each technology. Clearly the wide area tracking technology like GPS is not suitable for areas where accuracy is very important for example inside warehouse. For such areas RFID is more valuable. A wireless LAN would also be more suitable which are being deployed by many wireless service providers these days.

Not only location tracking allows companies to know where there assets are but also these technologies help retailers and marketers to better target their key markets. Some people are concerned about the security aspect in these tracking technologies. In what ways security can impact the overall efficiency of such systems?

[1] http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/3420/1/0/
[2] http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/location-tracking2.htm

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