Distribution Centre Hardware
So you’ve built the informational foundation for your supply chain network utilizing global data synchronization for all the products that will move through your operations. Now, the next step is to determine the appropriate infrastructure required for your supply chain network and then deploy, calibrate and implement it.
The infrastructure for your supply chain network is made up of both hardware, software and consumable components, with a number of different types of each required depending on the nature of your supply chain and the products/environments which make it up.
There are a number of different unitization or tracking levels at which your supply chain network can operate including truckload, pallet level, case level, inner pack level and ultimately individual items. If at all possible and not cost prohibitive, the supply chain network infrastructure you put in place should be designed and built in such a way that it can be easily extended to include all of these in the future if they do not form part of your initial rollout.
This will force you to be much more strategic and knowledgeable about the potential future network changes and additions right out of the gate, as well as assist you in avoiding major misteps that might result in significant throwaway costs going forward if you futureproof your supply chain network to the best of your current ability given technology available today.
So first off, let’s discuss the hardware components you will most likely require to build out your supply chain network infrastructure inside your warehouse or distribution centers.
The first is RFID or Radio Frequency Identification readers which can be deployed at all key points along your supply chain and there are different types of readers for different location and use applications. But before you can determine which readers you need, a better understanding of your applications must be developed and validated so you know what flavour or flavours of RFID you will use based on specific testing of relevant tag types to best suit your products and operating environment. (see Part 3 Consumables)
The first determination will be relative to whether you will be doing a chokepoint or a wide area RFID implementation, or perhaps utilizing both in different locations in your operations. A chokepoint is where product moves through a constrained area such as a dock door and only read as it moves through that defined location. A wide area implementation would be where you want to be able to read all the RFID tags in a given area, an example of this is where you read the RFID tags and location of all the trailers in your distribution centre yard.
Secondly, once these application points and methods have been determined you may have the requirement for fixed or non-movable readers ie: portals and/or portable or movable readers ie; handhelds or forklift mounted. Remember to have both power and communications wiring in place for all the locations you wish to install a fixed reader, unless of course you’re using a wireless transceiver system.
In the case of fixed readers, typical implementations will include dock doors, both shipping and receiving, doors between different warehouse sections and also at the sortation point on conveyors. More advanced application where warranted can include placement of readers in the floor at strategic points and even covering specific warehouse locations.
Wherever your fixed readers are located, once you’ve determined these locations, readers should be numbered using Global Location Numbering or GLN to define exactly where these readers are in your operation. See the article Defining Place in Your Supply Chain to learn more about GLN or Global Location Numbering.
Now that your reader infrastructure is in place, the next step will be to determine connectivity, monitoring and middleware to consistently deliver the information from these key supply chain network monitoring points.