A Preliminary Demonstration of “Virtual Warehousing” and Cross-Docking Technique With Active RFID Combined With Asset Tracking Equipment
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A Preliminary Demonstration of “Virtual Warehousing” and Cross-Docking Technique With Active RFID Combined With Asset Tracking Equipment

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  • Abstract:
    The University of Denver’s Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) and System Planning Corporation’s GlobalTrak system have successfully demonstrated the integration of Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking and active radio frequency identification (RFID) monitoring of simulated cargo of pallet and carton sizes by a mobile data collection and reporting device during a cross-country, intermodal transit involving truck and rail segments for two containers. The success of this test indicates that it is possible to receive information about the location and condition of cargo throughout the transportation cycle, not just at nodes like transshipment or distribution centers. The use of RFID-tagged cartons and pallets with a GPS tracking device means that less than containerload/less than truckload (LCL/LTL) loads as well as container/trailer-loads can be tracked and monitored during transit, extending the warehouse onto the road. The pallets and cartons comprising the simulated cargo were tagged, placed in 53’ containers, transported, and brought together in Denver for a cross-docking maneuver. The tagged “cargo” was moved from one conveyance to the other and then associated with that new conveyance’s tracking device. The tag reads were reported by the respective devices and presented as meaningful cargo data on the GlobalTrak Information Management Bureau network site established for the National Center for Intermodal Transportation (NCIT). In this test, one 53’ container was loaded near the GlobalTrak facility in Arlington, VA and trucked to Harrisburg, PA where it was placed on CSX double stacked railcars and moved to the CSX intermodal yard south of Chicago. The container was then trucked, as is normally done, to the UP yard in western Chicago and double stacked on a railcar for the completion of the journey to Denver. From the Denver UP yard it was drayed to a hub in North Denver. A second 53’ container was obtained in Denver and trucked to the hub for a cross-docking event to occur with the containers within 8’ of each other. Cartons and simulated pallets loaded in Denver and associated with the Denver GlobalTrak asset management unit, or AMU, were then switched with the cargo that had just arrived from Arlington VA. The Denver cargo was associated with the Arlington VA-origin AMU. The Arlington VA cargo was associated with the Denver AMU in its new container. Both AMUs reported their tagged cargo to the GlobalTrak Information Management Bureau as new cargo but also recognized the movement from one container to another. The container loaded in and sent from Arlington VA initially reported its door open and closed during the loading cycle; and reported its location every hour and the status of the active RFID tags within the container more often. No alarms were reported until door opening in Denver at the cross-docking operation. On completing the cross-docking, both containers were pulled off the docks and stored in the yard for one day. The Arlington VA container with new RFID tagged cargo was sent back to Virginia. The Denver container was driven around Denver where one pallet was unloaded to test a last mile delivery scenario. The cargo which was loaded in Arlington VA and cross-docked to the second container in Denver was eventually off-loaded and stored at the University of Denver campus where it remains today. It continues to report its location and status within the facilities of ITI to an AMU. This test demonstrated the availability of improved delivery speeds through the coordination and scheduling of multiple containers from long-haul locations for cross-docking; a potential reduction in the costs of both inventory and materials handling; and a potential reduction in warehouse storage space requirements.
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