Alpha Baking, a national distributor of fresh and frozen breads, rolls and buns, partnered with The Kennedy Group and ORBIS Corporation to conduct a 9-month pilot using radio-frequency identification tag (RFID) technology to track trays and determine areas of tray loss within its supply chain.
Alpha has four plants and multiple depots across the United States. Prior to the pilot, this Chicago-based company was experiencing significant tray loss each year, with no visibility to where the loss was occurring. The first phase of its pilot involved tagging and tracking a statistically significant sampling of trays as they move from Alpha Baking’s production plants to its individual ship points.
“As an industry, we are trying to solve a problem we can’t define,” explained Bob McGuire, vice-president and director of logistics for Alpha Baking and chairman of the American Baking Association Fleet and Distribution Committee. “We know as an industry that we are all experiencing a great deal of tray loss, but until now, we have been unable to measure and understand those losses. The use of RFID has quantified and defined the root of the problem(s) and helped us take corrective action to better control and utilize our bakery trays.”
Using bakery trays supplied by ORBIS, the RFID system is powered by ePReusable, The Kennedy Group’s reusable asset tracking application. The Kennedy Group supplied the RFID tags, installed the portals and created the read points for a realistic end-to-end experience. The asset tracking system allows Alpha Baking’s logistics team to generate reports with tray destination points, trip duration time and the average turn duration per destination.
“Since RFID requires no line of sight, trays can be tracked throughout the system, without any manual intervention or interruption in normal business activities,” explained Patrick Kennedy, vice-president of marketing and sales for The Kennedy Group. “This system gave Alpha Baking visibility to assets in its system, while enabling it to see loss patterns, develop corrective actions and implement new processes to mitigate tray loss and better utilize their existing trays in the future.”
According to McGuire, “This first phase is providing accountability relative to where trays are being lost or delayed in the supply chain, and we are now able to identify the ship-to locations that are not in compliance. We quickly realized that 20% of the non-compliant ship-to locations accounted for 80% of the tray issues and we are now able to create processes for greater control. People watch what we watch. If the ship-to locations know we are watching the bakery trays, then they will too.”
This first phase of the pilot was meant to prove the effectiveness and scalability of an asset tracking system for the bakery industry. Future phases may include expanding the number of trays being tagged, as well as tracking trays at the depot and route levels.