Infosys - RFID Based Cylinder Tracking | Warehouse Management
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Infosys - RFID Based Cylinder Tracking | Warehouse Management

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RFID based cylinder tracking system enables better compliance with regulations with respect ro packaging and traceability while ensuring efficiency. It results in improved productivity, reliability ...

RFID based cylinder tracking system enables better compliance with regulations with respect ro packaging and traceability while ensuring efficiency. It results in improved productivity, reliability and quality.

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Infosys - RFID Based Cylinder Tracking | Warehouse Management Infosys - RFID Based Cylinder Tracking | Warehouse Management Document Transcript

  • gases TECHNOLOGY www.gasesandtechnology.com gases technology JANUARY/FEBRUARY • 2006 2003gases ™ and The Magazine for news and technical developments in high technology gas markets.gases RFID For Cylinder Management Biomass Gasification Promises Overcoming Hydrogen-Bonding In FTIR Spectroscopy Bulk Gases Offer SolutionsPLUS: News of Companies • Management • People • Products • Stock Watch • Industry Events GASES AND TECHNOLOGYWe officially support and endorse the following major industry events: V O L . 4 • N O . 6 GASES AND TECHNOLOGY V O L . 5 • N O . 1
  • Gases&Technology FEATURERFID for Industrial Gas CylinderManagement A T U L A G R A W A L A N D Y O G E S H S H E N D EThe benefits and usage of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags can meet allthe requirements for a cylinder management systemAbstract comes back to the factory safely and in proper condition after passing through different channel partners. Since The industrial gas companies use cylinders to deliver the cylinder supply chain is so complex there are losses;gases to their customers. They make huge investment in an average company loses 1% of cylinders.cylinders. The current process and systems are not able All through the supply chain process, cylinders needto meet all the requirements of cylinder management sys- to undergo periodic hydrostatic tests, and the mainte-tems. The RFID enabled cylinder management systems nance schedule and record of each cylinder deliveredwould help improve productivity, as well as improve the needs to be maintained for safety and regulatory reasons.quality, reliability and efficiency of the cylinder manage- In the subsequent sections, we will try to examine thement process, thus making an investment in cylinder compressed gases business and the importance of cylin-management worthwhile. This paper described how RFID der management in greater detail.tags can be used for various applications in cylinder A typical cylinder lifecycle is shown in Figure 1. Themanagement. cylinder life cycle includes: new cylinder procurement;Introduction cylinder (empty, filled and used) storage; filled cylinder transportation and delivery; used cylinder pick-up; cylin- Industrial gases play a vital role in the operations of der maintenance; and cylinder disposal.manufacturing, electronics and healthcare industries. Figure 2 shows the cylinder supply chain. The follow-These gases are delivered to the customers through ing is the cylinder movement flow across its supply chain:pipelines, tankers and cylinders. Gases supplied throughcylinders include oxygen, nitrogen, argon, Ar-CO2 mix,hydrogen, CO2, etc. Gas companies may own up to mil- 1. The empty cylinders from the warehouse are inspect-lions of cylinders that move across the supply chain ed for valve replacement, painting or other routinethrough different channel partners—warehouses, deal- maintenance-related work before being sent for filling.ers, customers and back to facto- 2. Based on the daily order reportries for refilling. As each regular generated every evening by thecylinder costs between $150 and Customer Service Center (CSC),$200, the overall asset value is Existing systems production is planned and thevery high. cannot accurately track cylinders are filled. Considering the fact that the 3. After filling, the cylinders arepackaged gas business consists of the individual cylinder’s sorted manually and sent to themany different kinds of gases being movement from the time filled-cylinder yard.supplied to a large base of frag- 4. The dispatch officer receivesmented customers, the product life- it is commissioned, the daily order schedule from CSCcycle of cylinders becomes extreme- through its lifecycle. in the morning and prepares thely complex; there are just too many dispatch plan for the day.products, partners, assets and vari- 5. As per stock of the filled cylin-ables which are part of running this der, the dispatch officer arrangeskind of business. For example, the company has to for deliveries to the customer.ensure that the cylinders are correctly tagged and sup- 6. The allocated filled cylinders are loaded onto trucksplied to the right customer; empty cylinders must be for dispatch.returned to the correct company for refilling. 7. The driver delivers the filled cylinders, picks up the All through this process, the ownership of the cylin- empty ones, prints the delivery note and proceeds toders still lies with the companies themselves and they the next customer.have to make sure that the cylinder that leaves the plant 8. After finishing the deliveries, the truck returns to the fac- gases and TECHNOLOGY January/February 2006
  • Gases&TechnologyFEATURE tory, the cylinders are manually counted, sorted and stored in an empty cylinder warehouse for the next filling.9. The driver gives the cylinder pick up/unload data for each cus- tomer to the warehouse officer. The officer uploads the data to the system for the individual cus- tomer.10. Bills are prepared based on the data uploaded by the warehouse officer.Issues and Challenges Figure 1. Cylinder Life Cycle The basic problem with the exist-ing system lies in the fact that it can-not accurately track the individualcylinder’s movement from the time itis commissioned, through its lifecy-cle. There is no system that tracksthe individual cylinder movementas it flows through the supplychain partners. This inability ofcurrent systems can lead to the fol-lowing issues:1. It is not possible to track an indi- vidual cylinder’s utilization record. A cylinder may keep lying in the filled cylinder warehouse without being used.2. Many times, it is difficult to differ- entiate between customer-owned, dealer-owned and company- owned cylinders. Figure 2. Gas Cylinder Business—Process Flow3. The damage/pilferage of a cylinder cannot be identified and attrib- ing due date, which is a time con- racy in records. uted to a specific customer or suming task. 9. Many times the dealers/distribu- delivery. 6. The current system results in dis- tors indulge in malpractices which4. It is not possible to locate individ- crepancies in customer’s and are difficult to track in the present ual cylinders lying with cus- company’s cylinder holding system, as cylinders are not tomers. The company may realize records because of manual count- uniquely tagged and their infor- that some cylinders are missing ing and human errors in commu- mation can be manipulated. but they cannot track the cylinder nication. 10. The accounting procedure in the location. 7. Cylinder audit or census is present system is time consuming5. The maintenance/testing record- extremely difficult as companies since the dispatch and warehouse keeping of cylinders becomes have to dig up records to locate officers have to upload the record extremely tedious as it requires the company-owned cylinders. of each customer manually after manual inspection and updating. 8. Many times the cylinders which deliveries. This may also result in The existing system requires every are condemned, or identified as errors that are difficult to track. cylinder to be checked manually lost or stolen are not reported in 11. The present system does not for its hydrostatic/corrosion test- the system, which leads to inaccu- offer a fool-proof check for pre-January/February 2006 gases and TECHNOLOGY View slide
  • Gases&TechnologyFEATURE a postage stamp and has contained within it, a minute microprocessor with storage capability, as well as an antenna that communicates with the network and ultimately a database. The characteristics of RFID allow it to be easily adopted and integrated with any object that can be tagged— even living beings. Production and Warehouse Management An RFID read/write tag can be conveniently attached to the cylinder collar or neck. It can hold informa- tion about the cylinder as a unique item: the product code; testing sta- tus; testing schedule; the date of last filling; the customer code; and other relevant information like what theFigure 3. Gas Cylinder Business—Process Flow cylinder contains once it is filled. A cylinder filling station handles a venting the wrong gas to be filled utilize that asset. wide range of cylinders having differ- in the cylinder. This is a major We believe that industrial gas com- ent product assignments. An RFID safety issue. panies would benefit by a cylinder reader attached to a filler point can read the RFID tag on the cylinder Moreover, the information about and can ensure that a wrong cylinderthe cylinders is dispersed in multiple is not used. The filled cylinders cansystems depending on the supply The characteristics of also be tracked in the warehouse. Atchain step in cylinder movement. The the time of dispatch, the filled cylin-asset management system might con- RFID allow it to be ders can be accurately identified andtain the information about the cylin- easily adopted and dispatched using RFID tags. The dis-ders owned by a company (as the patch information can be updated onassets) as well as the maintenance integrated with any the RFID tags as well as in the cylin-records of the cylinders. The informa- object that can be der management system. RFID cantion concerning the filled cylinders in help in controlling the cylinderwarehouses might be maintained in tagged—even inventory, eliminate cylinder losses,the production and inventory control living beings. reduce rental costs, allocate costs tosystems. The information related to cost centers and forecast futurecylinder delivery, pick-up or transit needs—all with minimum effort.may be maintained in the logistics sys-tems. management system in which RFID Customer Consumption Thus the current manual or semi- enabled cylinders can be identifiedautomated systems may result in and tracked during their entire life and Holding Monitoringerrors and have an economic impact cycle. The individual customer’s con-on the company operations. A compa- sumption pattern can be convenient-ny may not have accurate visibility of ly monitored by using RFID. Since RFIDproductivity per cylinder. The RFID can record and store the exactaccounting discrepancies may result RFID is a data collection technol- time of cylinder delivery and pickin dissatisfaction among customers. ogy that uses electronic tags to store up, an analysis over a period of timeOverall a company has a huge invest- identification data along with a wire- for an individual customer can helpment in cylinders but may not have less transmitter and/or reader to in generating important reports forrequisite information to optimize and capture it. An RFID tag is the size of that customer, such as their average gases and TECHNOLOGY January/February 2006 View slide
  • daily consumption, variations on roved credibility and customer satis-specific days, the average cylinder faction. 1) An empty cylinder from a ware-holding of the customer per month, house is read by a reader before itthe cylinder turnaround ratio for RFID Based Cylinder enters the filling station. The read-that customer, etc. Such information er reads the cylinder ID and the Tracking RFID supplies the maintenancecan help in managing just-in-timedeliveries and the better utilization A cylinder tracking system using status (for example the due dateof cylinders. Also, companies would RFID will have different elements: of hydrostatic test for that cylin-know the exact number of cylinders der). The operator would get anthe customer would be holding at 1. RFID read/write tags attached to alarm if the cylinder is due forany instant. cylinder collar/neck; these tags testing and such a cylinder would can be attached to every new be sent to the workshop. cylinder being procured. The tags 2) As the empty cylinder arrives at aCylinder Records may need to be maintained and filling point, the reader at the fill- For safety reasons and regulatory replaced a few times during the ing point reads the tag ID orpurposes, all gas companies need to cylinder life cycle. cylinder item number to ensurekeep a maintenance record of cylin- 2. Tag reader devices that may be that the correct cylinder is beingders, since these are high pressure mobile or fixed at various loca- filled.cylinders handling different gases. tions; 3) Once the cylinder is filled, itAn RFID tag attached to a cylinder 3. The software applications that moves to an RFID writer pointcan hold information about its interface with the reader are for where the additional informationunique item number, which can be item identification, location iden- like date and time of filling, cylin-correlated with cylinder procure- tification, movement tracking, der pressure, etc. can be writtenment, movement, maintenance and information updates, etc. Such on the RFID tag. The cylinder cantesting records. Thus, before any software applications would need then move to the warehouse.process with the cylinder, data accu- to talk to or be part of business 4) The inventory control systemrately identifying the cylinder and process applications like ERP, would have accurate informationassociate past and present activity Asset Management, Supply Chain about the cylinders in the ware-records can be checked, and each and Logistics, etc. house based on the filling stationcylinder life cycle can be accurately as well as the dispatch data.tracked. This would enable one to There would also be additional Additionally, a moving reader candeduce information like cylinder life, requirements for networks, mobile facilitate periodic stock-taking inbased on maintenance history, idle devices, application integration, etc. the warehouse.time, testing history, and corrosion Figure 3 illustrates the positions 5) Based on the delivery orders andrecords for each individual cylinder. where RFID readers can be used to priority reports generated by the capture and input the data pertain- CSC, the dispatch officer pre- ing to a cylinder. In the beginning, all pares a dispatch plan for theCylinder Stock Taking the cylinders are equipped with supplies and uses an RFID writer One of the most frequent prob- RFID tags. These tags may be read- to enter information such as cus-lems gas distributors, manufactur- only or read/write tags. The read- tomer code, date and time of dis-ers and consumers come across are only tags have a unique tag code that patch, truck number, and cylin-the discrepancies between them in can be linked to a cylinder item der count in the RFID tag, andthe cylinder records, leading to com- number at the beginning of the informs the shipping departmentmercial issues regarding cylinder process. The read/write tag will have to load the cylinders on the truckholding and cylinder rental charges. the cylinder item number too, and The dispatched cylinder informa-Often, such problems arise from can include the product code along tion can also be loaded onto themanual errors in counting or record with more dynamic information mobile device carried by thekeeping while loading/unloading of such as filling pressure, date of fill- truck driver. The loaded truckcylinders. At times, there may also ing, etc. Additional data could be can proceed for delivery to thebe a mismatch between the number product properties as well as MSDS customers.of filled cylinders delivered and information. 6) At a customer location, the driverempty cylinders picked up from the An RFID tagged cylinder manage- unloads the cylinders corre-customer. RFID can improve data ment application would work as fol- sponding to the delivery order byreconciliation and result in imp- lowing: reading the cylinder tag. WhileJanuary/February 2006 gases and TECHNOLOGY
  • Gases&TechnologyFEATURE collecting empty cylinders, the Conclusion wrong gas is not filled into the wrong driver reads the cylinder tags cylinder and delivered to the wrong with his mobile device and cred- Implementing RFID will require an customer. This tracking system its the customer with the cylin- investment in the tags themselves, in enables better compliance with gov- der. The driver makes a delivery the readers/writers and the software; ernment regulations regarding prod- note for the customer and prints additional investment is needed for ucts, product packaging and trace- it through a portable thermal carrying out the project and integrat- ability and promises greater efficiency printer that can be integrated ing the new system with existing IT in complying with future government into the handheld mobile device. systems. regulations.7) The empty cylinder laden truck However, in addition to all the ben- comes back to the factory. efits of using RFID outlined above, During the cylinder unloading, there are safety and compliance Atul Agrawal is Principal the cylinder data can be read by issues that can be considered in cal- Consultant in the Domain culating a company’s ROI. Unlike bar Competency Group of Infosys the readers and the warehouse Technology Limited. system can update the cylinder coded cylinders, the rugged RFID He can be contacted at information by downloading the gives an alarm when maintenance Atul_Agrawal@infosys.com. entire cylinder data captured in and testing is due, eliminating the Yogesh Shende is a Consultant the driver’s mobile device into need to physically examine the cylin- in Domain Competency Group ders. RFID also insures that the of Infosys. the in-house database. gases and TECHNOLOGY January/February 2006