RFID technology boosts asset control

Thanks to an asset management solution, Mission Foods saves big on returnable containers.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
October 27, 2010 - MMH Editorial

As one of the world’s leading tortilla producers, Texas-based Mission Foods is an industry innovator in manufacturing quality tortillas, chips, salsa, taco shells and more for consumers throughout the country and around the world. Daily operations in three Texas warehouses require accuracy and proficiency as they process and prepare nearly 20,000 containers of product on a daily basis for a vast network of independent distributors.

As part of the distribution process, Mission Foods places all of its packaged products in returnable plastic containers (RPCs), which independent distributors then load onto trucks. The independent distributors then are supposed to return these RPCs after sales are complete. However, Mission Foods found that after the RPCs left the warehouse for deliveries, they were likely never seen again.

With a paper-based tracking process that wasn’t streamlined across the various warehouses and distribution centers, Mission Foods workers had no way to track if RPCs were returned to a different facility or if they were ever returned at all. Because of this, Mission Foods lacked basic asset tracking, and the results were staggering. Nearly 100% of its RPCs were being replaced each year at an annual cost of nearly $3.5 million.

The solution was an RFID-based asset management and tracking system (Intermec, http://www.intermec.com). In the new process, the packaged products are picked and loaded onto the RPCs, which are tagged with RFID labels. The RPCs are then loaded onto pallets and the RFID label is encoded by a smart printer before it’s applied to the pallet wrap. An RFID reader records these pallets and associated RPCs as a forklift drives though an outbound portal prior to the loading dock. When the delivery trucks return, the RPCs are again processed through an inbound portal, offering an easy, immediate reconcile of inventory. Even if the containers are returned in batches or to a different warehouse, they are still scanned in as “returned,” allowing Mission Foods to see in real-time where they are all located.

With the new system, Mission Foods now budgets a 20% replacement rate for damaged or unreturned boxes, instead of the 100% replacement rate it once experienced. In reality, the company now has closer to an impressive 4% replacement rate as a result of the RFID technology.

More articles on RFID
RFID: Sensing and monitoring are the next wave
By combining RFID’s track and trace capabilities with sensors, users are getting more data and value than ever.

RFID: A cloudy future for RFID. And that’s a good thing.
You’ve heard about cloud computing. Get ready for RFID in the cloud.

RFID: Delivering on the promise of real-time visibility
After years of talk, end users are putting RFID into action. How about 200% growth in budgeted spending for 2010.



About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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