Veiling Holambra in Brazil introduced a tracking and tracing system for their logistics materials. They equipped trolleys, trolley shelves and reusable containers with RFID tags. A hefty investment, but in return, they’re gaining complete control over their logistic flows and logistics equipment and the system also helps increase their efficiency.
By Arie-Frans Middelburg
Five years ago, Veiling Holambra started with the implementation of RFID tags on auction trolleys, trolley shelves, reusable flower containers and plant trays. It involved a total of 1.3 million tags and 25 new entrance and exit gates.
The project was completed in 2016. The investment cost 5 million reais, around 1.25 million euros. Jorge Possato Texiera, facility and logistics manager at Veiling Holambra, explains that in the past, around 1,000 trolleys would go missing each year. That number has gone down to 100 now. It’s one of the advantages of the system.
Texeira: “Since the introduction in 2016, logistics equipment has stopped disappearing and information has been more reliable. And the registration system and the information also help improve the logistic performance in the form of shorter collection and delivery times.”
The tracking and tracing system has put an end to discussions about who’s responsible for lost or damaged trolleys, shelves or reusable containers. The system registers this for all logistics equipment. So, if a trolley gets lost, you can easily see who was responsible for it at that particular moment.
Texeira indicates that the system has also led to substantial time savings with regards to the delivery of plants and flowers by growers, as well as the distribution among buyers. Texeira: “It used to take around 25 minutes to handle the arrival of a lorry with plants and flowers. Nowadays, that’s 11 minutes on average.” And that’s with 25 fewer people than before.
Delivery time after clock sales is two hours now, as opposed to three hours. That’s because Veiling Holambra transferred some of the employees that were no longer needed for unloading deliveries, to the distribution of the clock sales. Another technique that Veiling Holambra implemented in this process is ‘picking by voice’. Something they’d seen at Royal FloraHolland.
Texeira visited the export locations of the Dutch auction three times to learn about this technique. “Across the entire process, from receipt to delivery of produce for intermediary services or clock sales, we’re achieving around 35% time savings”, says Texeira. Veiling Holambra is currently developing ‘picking by voice’ for plants and flowers sold through intermediary services.
Texeira highlights another advantage of the tracking and tracing system. “The RFID tags prevent that counterfeit containers get mixed into our container pool. If any counterfeit containers are shipped to us, we can immediately identify them at one of the entrance gates. Without RFID tags, there’s no way to identify these counterfeit containers.”
The registration system means that the responsible party can be charged for the costs when equipment goes missing. Customers must return containers and trays to the auction within twenty days. For trolleys and trolley shelves, this period is a year. If the trolleys haven’t been returned to the auction within a year, customers are notified and given another month to find the trolleys and return them. If customers fail to return logistics equipment on time, they pay 125 euro for a missing trolley, 20 euro for a trolley shelf, 7.50 euro for a container and 1.25 euro for a tray.
Texeira estimates that tracking and tracing helps the auction save half a million reais per year, which is around 125,000 euro. That brings the return period of the system to ten years.
How does it work?
All logistics equipment used by growers and customers enter the auction through gates and leave the auction through gates or they’re scanned. If a grower for example, brings his produce to the auction, the bar code on the trolley is scanned manually. After that, the trolley goes through a gate. Three antennas on the gate register the trolley, the reusable containers and the trolley shelves. At the same time, the logistics equipment is linked to the information on the documents. The employee’s card is also scanned when he drives through the gate, so that the auction knows which consignment was managed by which employee.
If an error occurs with regards to the logistics equipment – for example, only six trolleys are registered instead of the listed seven – a red lamp turns on. The logistics equipment returned by customers also goes through a gate, as well as all logistics equipment leaving the auction. It goes through a gate towards the grower, or it’s scanned at a customer’s box. That’s how registration, and essentially, allocation of responsibility, takes place.
Veiling Holambra expands every year, which means they also need to purchase new logistics equipment every year. The auction bases the amounts on the member details.
This year alone, they will add 5,000 trolleys, 20,000 trolley shelves, 30,000 trays and 25,000 containers. A 500,000 euro investment. When the new equipment arrives at the auction, the RFID tags will be glued to the plant trays and containers, and attached to the trolleys and plastic trolley shelves. According to Texeira, the RFID tags are very durable. The ones on the trolleys last about 7 to 8 years, and the ones on the trays, containers and shelves 10 years.
RFID tags at Royal FloraHolland?
“All our trolleys are also equipped with RFID tags. We can trace those via loops in the building”, responds Yme Pasma, COO at Royal FloraHolland, when we ask him whether it would be interesting for them to equip logistics equipment with RFID tags.
“There aren’t any tags on our containers, we’re exploring the options, but the main challenge is that we’ve already got a very large number of containers without tags. The life span of those containers is so long, that it would take decades before they’d all be replaced by containers with tags. The advantage of containers with tags is that you no longer need to count them manually. You simply drive them through the gate and they’re counted. But there isn’t a good method yet for putting tags on existing containers.”
Pasma points out that the advantage of Veiling Holambra is, that their building was designed with technology in mind. “They’ve got a few exits, which are now fitted with gates to register all trolleys and containers going through. Our buildings have developed over many years of refurbishments, without ever taking into account this kind of technology. We’d have to invest in gates for hundreds of different exits across all our buildings, I’m afraid we don’t have a cost-effective solution for that yet.”