IBM Solution Uses Sensors to Speed the Movement of Shipping Containers

Computer giant IBM has introduced software designed to enable companies to extract new business information from sensors to determine the whereabouts and conditions of millions ofreturnable shipping containers used to transport goods around the world.

IBM’s InfoSphere Traceability Server has been enhanced with a new capability called Returnable Container Management, which was specifically designed for governments, businesses, automotive manufacturers, parts suppliers and other businesses to track the exactlocation of containers and other reusable assets used to move parts and products. This technology is aimed at improving the performance of the millions of shipping containers that form the foundation of international shipping and trade.

Containers, which move millions of parts and products every day, represent a major investment for clients in many industries. For example, many automotive original equipment manufacturers maintain container inventories in excess of $100 million. The containers are shipped by manufacturers to suppliers, who fill the containers and send them back with components and sub-assemblies to the manufacturer.

Even in this age of heightened security concerns, returnable containers in every industry are often lost or misplaced, creating shipping delays and increased costs.IBM's Returnable Container Management offering will allow container owners touse sensor data to protect their investments in shipping containers and other mobile assets. By affixing a sensor with a unique serial number to each container, manufacturers and their trading partners can use a Web browser to track the exact location of a particular container as they move along the supply chain.

Users affix sensors such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to each of their reusable containers. Through the use of both standing and mobile devices that read the tags, all relevant data is captured, including place and date of manufacture, serial number, and other necessary details. IBM’s software, based on industry standards, allows clients and their trading partners to use a Web browser to determine where each container is at any given point. If a container reaches the wrong location, the system will alert management. For example, an automobile manufacturer using the software can track containers filled with parts from suppliers to their manufacturing plants and ultimately back to container storage facilities.

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