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INDUSTRY FOCUS WAREHOUSING & LOGISTICS


LOCATION TECHNOLOGY IMPROVES STOCK TRACKING


Real-time location technology in factories and warehouses offers a host of solid business benefits. Charlie Brackley, Vero Solutions sales manager at Harland Simon, explains...


I


magine being able to track stock so accurately that, even as it is moved, you know precisely where it is at all times. Imagine eliminating costly and time-consuming human error from the process. Imagine reducing accidents while also cutting the time taken to record stock transactions and the time wasted looking for inventory. Well, you no longer have to imagine.


The technology to achieve all this is here now in the form of the real-time location system (RTLS).


REAL-TIME LOCATION SYSTEM RTLS is advanced technology that detects, tracks, monitors and records the location of a target – typically a pallet or materials handling equipment (MHE) – in a warehouse or factory. By doing so, it can inform you of the exact location in real time of every pallet, pedestrian and forklift truck in your factory or warehouse. The benefits of RTLS don’t stop there.


Being aware of the location of stock, people and MHE also reduces the likelihood of damage to inventory and racking, and boosts safety by reducing the possibility of collisions. On top of this, knowing where


inventory is at any given time helps prevent mis-picks and cuts the likelihood of lost inventory, removing the need for extensive stock reconciliation effort. Precise stock tracking can also improve handling efficiency, raise the number of possible moves per hour and limit the risk for expensive losses. There are essentially three main types of RTLS technology – radio frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi and optical tracking. The one (or more) you decide to use will depend largely on the accuracy you require.


14 MAY 2016 | AUTOMATION


Optical tracking monitors the movement of vehicles such as forklift trucks using grid markers


There are essentially three main types of RTLS technology – radio frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi and optical tracking


RFID RFID comes in passive and active form. Passive RFID tags contain no power source of their own so power is delivered by the reader. When the tag receives a signal from the reader, it transmits the information encoded in its memory. Active RFID typically employs battery- powered tracking tags incorporating a microchip and antenna. These tags broadcast a signal at pre-set intervals with details of the product to which they are attached. Signals are received by a network of readers, enabling the user to determine the whereabouts of the tag. RFID offers far more accurate read rates and much faster handling speeds than barcodes. Furthermore, label angles don’t cause the reader a problem and it is unaffected by lighting conditions.


WI-FI Wi-Fi is a networking technology that uses radio waves to provide high-speed, wireless network connections. There are two types of Wi-Fi based system. Non- proprietary ‘open’ systems use a standard Wi-Fi infrastructure employing normal access points, but the accuracy of such systems is severely limited. The better alternative is proprietary


products or systems owned exclusively by a single company. Vero’s patented Wi-Fi technology, for example, is specifically designed to deliver an accurate and


effective method of pedestrian and forklift tracking, both indoors and outdoors. Regardless of the scale of the system,


the Vero EPS Wi-Fi solution offers sub- metre accuracy of each tagged element and can be installed at relatively low infrastructure cost.


OPTICAL TRACKING Optical tracking monitors the movement of vehicles such as forklift trucks using grid markers at ceiling height in the warehouse or factory that engage with cameras and sensors. It also automatically reads barcodes on pallets as a vehicle approaches, removing the errors that typically result from manual barcode pallet scanning. Other advantages of optical scanning are that it works in any building, with any forklift truck and with both rack and bulk storage. It also requires no additional lighting. Typically, a top-mounted camera takes


multiple images per second of overhead location markers to calculate the real- time location of each forklift truck as well as its direction and speed. A front- mounted camera reads the pallet’s identification label and tracks its movement throughout the warehouse to its precise pick-up or put-away location. This system can calculate the position of the asset to a particularly high degree of accuracy – around 25cm.


GREATER EFFICIENCY So, RTLS systems come in many shapes and sizes with various features and functions. The system, or systems, most appropriate for your site will depend on a range of factors such as how big your facility is, what it’s storing and how quickly you need to retrieve inventory. However, whichever RTLS you decide to


install, you can be assured that it will contribute greatly to the efficiency and effectiveness of your operation.


Harland Simon T: 01908 276700


http://vero.solutions E: vero@harlandsimon.com


/AUTOMATION


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