RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) applications in manufacturing and the supply chain.

Plant Exporter Credits Success to Vision Technology Solution

25-Mar-2016
Plant Exporter Credits Success to Vision Technology Solution
Plant exporter Floréac says it guarantees accurate shipments, reduces customer complaints and more than halves its credit note value thanks to the automated shipping verification on its plant trolleys based on Zetes' Vision Technology.

Pot plants are not shipped to customers on pallets but sector-specific trolleys. At Floréac, the trolleys are internally transported on an RFID operated chain conveyor that runs through the entire distribution centre. With a volume of 25 to 35 order lines per trolley and peak throughputs of 12,000 to 14,000 order lines per day, human error would regularly slip into the logistic flow. "We sometimes invoiced for order lines that weren't delivered", says Dirk Criel, Logistic Planner at Floréac.

In order to guarantee accurate shipments and invoicing, including a correct shipping note per trolley, Floréac looked for a solution that would provide a quick and efficient shipping verification system for completed trolleys. At first, manually scanning the picking labels was considered as an option. However, it quickly became apparent that due to the vast number of order lines, this would be both highly time-consuming and very expensive. Zetes proposed its automated shipping verification solution, which uses sophisticated vision technology, to rapidly and efficiently validate that the correct products were on the correct trolleys.

The picking labels, which have a 2D barcode and correspond to the order lines of the orders, are applied to a panel on the front of the trolley during the order picking process. All validated trolleys are moved to the correct loading quay by the chain conveyor where a shipping list for each trolley is printed; the vision system is integrated as a port in this chain. I images of the trolleys are captured in motion as they move past, never delaying or interrupting the flow.

The system takes 2 sets of images of each completed trolley:
  1. The first set consists of an image of the fixed, unique 2D barcode of the trolley itself that will be linked to the image of all 2D picking labels that are applied to the front panel of the trolley during the logistic flow. This ensures that all order lines on the trolley (pots, trays etc.) are linked to the ID of the trolley. This information is then captured in Floréac’s SAP system which checks and validates that all picking labels are part of the same shipment. Should this not be the case, an error report is printed for the operator to correct the mistake. 
  2. A second set of colour images are captured in order to enable visual proof shipping if ever required (quantity of plants, colour and condition). 

The introduction of the automated shipping verification system has had a significant impact on the number of “invoiced, but not delivered claims, to the extent that the value of our actual credit notes has been more than halved,” says Dirk Criel. “With regard to discussions with customers about quality, correct colour or size of the plants, these colour images provide the ultimate proof for the quality manager and sellers,” concludes Criel. As any error is immediately detected, corrected and fed back to the relevant employee, the vision system also plays an important role with regard to continuous improvement within the logistic chain of Floréac.