Automate Container Processing With Wherenet Wireless Solutions

Oct. 1, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif.---WhereNet Corp., a leader of wireless solutions for tracking and managing enterprise assets, announced the WhereNet Marine Terminal

SANTA CLARA, Calif.---WhereNet Corp., a leader of wireless solutions for tracking and managing enterprise assets, announced the WhereNet® Marine Terminal Management solution --- a single, standards-based wireless system that enables terminal operators to cost-effectively locate, track and manage containers and container handling equipment in high-volume seaports. This first-of-its-kind solution --- based on the WhereNet real-time locating system (RTLS) wireless infrastructure interfaced with sensor data provided by PACECO CORP.'s Position Tracking Interface Unit (PTIU) --- gives terminal operators accurate data about every stacked container in their yard, enabling them to optimize operations while increasing volume.

"With import volumes on the rise every year and with real estate at a premium, marine terminal operators are increasing yard capacity by making the transition from "wheeled" to "stacked" container operations," said Frank Pisano, vice president, TraPac Corp. "In order to keep up with this increased volume, terminal operators must become more efficient in 'turning' containers; but in order to increase throughput, you must first know the exact whereabouts of all of your yard assets. WhereNet's RTLS technology solves this 'needle in a haystack' problem by providing constant visibility and status information about every container --- no matter where it moves --- across mammoth marine terminals that sometimes span hundreds of acres."

"WhereNet's technology is a major breakthrough for marine terminal operators and will help facilitate giant efficiency gains at ports around the world," said Henry King, senior product engineer and new products manager, PACECO CORP. "We are excited to partner with WhereNet to extend its solution for tracking and monitoring stacked containers. Our customers no longer have to install and integrate multiple disparate systems. We have already successfully demonstrated the capability of our joint solution and its proven return on investment, and we expect rapid adoption by terminal operators in the months to come."

"Intelligent" Assets Automate Manual Tasks

The WhereNet solution offers marine terminal operators the next generation of wireless resource management tools for planning, scheduling, and optimizing ocean terminal resources. Based on wireless radio frequency WhereTag devices and a local infrastructure of wireless WhereLAN locating access points, the WhereNet system provides real-time location and status information of critical mobile assets --- including draymen's trucks, third-party chassis, and container handling equipment. What's more, as a result of joint product development with PACECO, the WhereNet system can also track grounded, stacked containers via an interface between the WhereTags and sensor data provided by PACECO's PTIU device for rubber tire gantry (RTG) cranes (used to stack containers up to four high and six "lanes" wide). In essence, each container becomes "intelligent" through its association with the WhereNet solution, which conveys "where" it is and "what" it is based on real-time updates of the WhereNet database.

By replacing manual, error-prone, latent data collection processes with automated, up-to-the-minute status and location data about every container and mobile asset in a marine terminal, the WhereNet system provides critical real-time data to the terminal operating system (TOS) software and personnel, enabling them to optimize yard operations, realize significant cost savings, increase throughput, and offer better customer service.

Single System Provides Constant Visibility from Vessel Unload to Over the Road

Through the marriage of WhereNet's standards-based RTLS technology (which provides location and status information), its Wi-Fi-certified wireless LAN (which provides the backhaul for mobile workforce communications and data transmission), and third-party optical character recognition (OCR) technology (which provides hands-free container identification), terminal operators benefit from a single, integrated wireless system that lets them manage their operations more efficiently than ever before. The following sequence outlines the "intelligent transformation" of a drayman's visit to a terminal to pick up an import container:

1. A drayman or third-party trucker arrives at the gate entrance to begin an automated check-in process. A permanently mounted WhereTag --- affixed to either the chassis or the cab of the truck --- provides a unique ID that can be associated with an appointment and other trip-specific detail. In the event a permanent WhereTag does not exist, a temporary tag may be issued as an electronic interchange ticket. For drayman or third-party truckers who make frequent trips to the terminal, the WhereTag is easily affixed to the truck (the tag's battery lasts five to seven years). If the drayman arrives with a container for export, OCR cameras mounted at the gate capture the unique identification of the container; simultaneously, a WherePort device activates the WhereTag. Through time synchronization between the WhereTag and the OCR system, the WhereNet database associates the tagged asset with that particular container. That asset and its container will remain "married" to one another until the container is disengaged from the drayman or third-party trucker at a different location in the yard. Through this unique marriage, the terminal operator can "see" the container wherever it travels across the terminal even though the container itself does not have a WhereTag attached to it.

2. The drayman or third-party truck driver proceeds to the designated bay to receive an import container. Based on transmissions from the drayman's WhereTag, the RTG crane driver receives confirmation of the drayman's ID and the container that needs to be delivered. Through a user-friendly interface, the RTG driver's wireless PC directs the driver to a specific container in the stack.

3. The driver returns to the gate with the container, where the automated checkout process mirrors Step 1.

In order to maintain location information for a container in a stack, PACECO developed the Position Tracking Interface Unit (PTIU), a first-of-ist-kind device that can be added to a PACECO RTG crane or be retrofitted to other types of RTG cranes. Utilizing the WhereNet RTLS to determine the RTG's position in the terminal, the PTIU interfaces to an exisiting programmable logic controller (PLC) on the RTG; with add-on components, the PTIU can also be retrofitted to older cranes to track the trolley position and hoist height on the stack of containers. When the operator locks the spreader on a container, the PTIU tracks the position of the RTG and the container position relative to the RTG, and looks them up via a database that remotely monitors these transactions. Real-time tracking of container movement is available when a container is moved to another location in the stack or loaded on the truck to be taken to the gate. In addition, the system is expandable to allow for real-time diagnostic monitoring of fuel level and operator usage time and information.

"The marine terminal industry has longed for an integrated, wireless solution like WhereNet for decades. With our single, multi-use system, terminal operators are realizing a lower total cost of ownership as WhereNet's wireless infrastructure can simultaneously support the tracking of wheeled and grounded containers, location and status monitoring, and workforce communication," said Matt Armanino, vice president of business development, WhereNet. "By connecting yard personnel and terminal operating systems with the assets that they are trying to manage, WhereNet automates transactions and in the process reduces operational costs while achieving a higher return on assets and yard throughput."

Pricing and Availability

Pricing for the WhereNet wireless systems and associated applications is based on the configuration requirements of a customer's system and the size of the installation; a small WhereNet system begins at approximately $250,000. The WhereNet Marine Terminal Management solution is immediately available from WhereNet and its distribution partners.

PACECO CORP. is one of the world's leading suppliers of container handling equipment for marine terminals. Today, PACECO CORP., delivers high-quality container handling cranes throughout the world, and develops new technologies and products that increase port efficiency, productivity, and security. This includes the INTERCEPTOR® container scanner for homeland security applications and intelligent equipment-monitoring technologies for terminal tracking systems.

WhereNet delivers wireless location and communication infrastructures that reliably and cost-effectively manages valuable mobile resources. For more information, visit the WhereNet Web site at