The Need for Intelligent RTIs

Supply chain optimization has become a way of improving and differentiating your business. It’s no longer just a cost of doing business but a source of competitive advantage as demonstrated by companies like WalMart. Bar coding has been widely employed for this purpose but bar codes have limitations and can only help so much:

  • You have to be able to see the barcodes to read them.
  • Bar codes can’t store actionable data about the condition of the contents such as it’s temperature or transport history.

The critical benefits of actionable data about the condition and location of products are being increasingly recognized across the food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for asset tracking. Actionable data enables the intelligent supply chain and delivers the ability to improve operational efficiencies and drive out waste. Research indicates that this data is best captured at the pallet, bin or tote level – the domain of the reusable transport item, or RTI.

An intelligent RTI, or iRTI, is a reusable transport item that is embedded with an RFID tag to collect and capture information about the RTI itself as well as its contents. When integrated into a software system, the iRTI provides important actionable data to help address some of the key challenges in today’s supply chains and provide a rapid ROI. And, by employing RFID, you don’t have to actually see the tag to read it and capture the information on the tag. This simplifies operations and can reduce labor costs.

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Rick LeBlanc, editor of Packaging Revolution’s authored this new white paper on the value of Intelligent RTIs.  It’s a great explanation of the benefits of this new solution.  You can download it here.

 

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

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Returnable Transport Items – Where is the Next Big Win?

I was recently on vacation along the Oregon coast and took a photo that I’ve been quite anxious to share.  There, along the beautiful, pristine beach, where sea lions gather and people search for seashells, I found this:

Just what every beautiful beach needs, a pallet.

A beautiful wooden pallet.  Lost track of.  Serving no purpose.  Cluttering the landscape. Wasting some company’s money. So, when I see an article about the benefits of Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) such as plastic pallets, totes, containers and bins, I pay particular notice.  There are many benefits of moving from wooden or cardboard packaging including improved sanitation, less waste and the potential for implementing close loop systems that can improve profitability.  This morning I came across an article titled Reusables – Where is the Next Big Win?  It talks about the increasing use of RTIs by leading retailers such as Safeway and Kroger and how they’re able to improve operations based on switching to plastic-based returnable, reusable solutions.

Another interesting article Boosting Supply Chain Efficiencies with Reusable Transport Packaging by Justin Lehrer of StopWaste.org elaborates on the benefits when it comes to shipping produce and again references Kroger and Safeway and the benefits they’re seeing from the shift away from legacy transport items.

But is that the next big win?  The movement to RTIs is already underway and demand for them is increasing. Rather, we think the next big win is making RTIs intelligent by integrating temperature sensor devices directly into the pallets, containers, totes and bins.  By adding the ability to monitor and manage the condition of perishable goods such as produce, meats, poultry and pharmaceuticals as they move through the supply chain, growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers can make decisions about how to pack, bundle and distribute goods more efficiently.  The result is that more food is delivered fresh and more pharmaceuticals are received safe and effective for use.  The result becomes not simply less waste in packaging but less waste in the goods in the package or container.  (You can learn more about our RTI solutions here.)

Hats off to pioneers like Safeway and Kroger for innovating and looking at new ways to solve old problems that reduce waste and (along the way) help keep things like wooden pallets off the beach.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

…And Speaking of Intelligent Pallets (and RTIs)…

Maybe you don’t think about pallets that often.  If you’re not in the logistics industry, the word “pallet” probably conjures up images of beaten up pieces of wood on a loading dock behind a store. But, if you’re into logistics, there’s a whole lot more going on.

A recent article on PalletEnterprise.comspeaks about trends in the logistics of the pallet industry. The author, Rick LeBlanc, discusses a number of logistics challenges and opportunities for 2012 including palletization in emerging nations, unit load tracking, supply chain optimization, sustainability, and sanitation concerns. One thing in particular, however, struck me: the increasing need for intelligent pallets – and I would add into that returnable transport items (RTIs) such as totes, bins and containers as well.

Will Wooden Pallets Go the Route of the Dinosaur?

LeBlanc writes: With global supply chains, the importance of accurately projecting demand, and coordinating it with supply continues to be of huge importance, as is flexibility. With respect to flexibility of managing inventory en route, tracking and monitoring technology will play an increasingly important role. [Italicized references are my added emphasis.] Whether or not such technology will be increasingly embedded in pallets or just attached or in the vicinity of unit loads, is yet to be determined.

Another point that LeBlanc raises relates to risks and costs associated with bioterrorism, cargo theft, and food safety. He cites a recent presentation by Dr. Paul Singh, professor emeritus of Michigan State University, and Michael McCartney, principal of QLM Consulting, at the United Fresh produce conference in Dallas about the Food Safety Act and the FDA’s ability to enforce the law. Referencing the United Fresh presentation LeBlanc writes: Depending upon how aggressive the enforcement, we should see an escalating emphasis on proper handling of pallets to keep them clean and dry, as well as more tracking technology to monitor not only the location of the load, but also tampering, load temperature, vibration and other information that could influence load condition. Whether this technology will be embedded in the pallet or somewhere else in the vicinity, Singh and McCartney are suggesting a future where a trailer load of fresh produce will be a high tech mobile warehouse.

LeBlanc then summarizes that the logistics industry will be looking for “safer pallets, greener pallets and possibly smarter pallets”.

I agree.  We’re seeing increasing demand for smarter, intelligent pallets and RTIs.  Producers, retailers and food service providers in particular are looking to intelligent RTIs that include the ability to locate where the RTI is as well as report on the condition of the cargo – specifically the temperature.  RTIs with embedded condition monitoring tags built in can significantly enhance food safety and quality by capturing and sharing both the temperature and waypoint information providing the ability to ensure the product has been handled correctly in the supply chain as well as providing an electronic traceability record. These capabilities, combined with advances in RTIs, could help to revolutionize logistics and enable a more intelligent supply chain.  You can learn about how XC3 Technology can help by clicking here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing