Magazine Article | May 24, 2006

Wi-Fi-Based Asset Tracking Reduces Port Labor Costs

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, June 2006

American Port Services (APS) is one of the largest transportation logistics providers in the southeast United States, handling goods that arrive from all the major southeastern seaports in several cross-docking and warehousing facilities. At its largest cross-docking facility, the 60-acre Savannah, GA location, APS has 1,000 spaces for trailers and containers (the large box-like vessels semitrucks pull). Each day, approximately 300 third party trucks pass through the facility, dropping off large loads of a single item from a port shipment and exiting with mixed truckloads to deliver to their destinations.

When a truck enters an APS cross-docking facility, it is assigned a space to drop off its trailer or container shipment. Because goods are constantly in motion around the facility, the assigned stall is often already taken (or not yet vacated), and the driver needs to find another stall. Just as often, the driver or gatekeeper makes an error with the stall number, and the trailer is deposited in the wrong location. To address this problem, APS used a team of four full-time ‘spotters’ to drive around the facility, finding misplaced trailers and moving them to the next location. On average, each misplaced trailer took a spotter 30 minutes to find. The labor and fuel costs of this manual search process were high, and the time it added to complete customer orders caused problems with customer service.

APS searched for a technology to complement its yard management system that would allow it to automate the process of locating trailers within the yard. With the help of systems integrator AGI, APS evaluated and adopted the AeroScout Visibility System, a Wi-Fi-based RTLS (real-time location system). The solution includes server software, wireless receivers placed throughout the port facility to triangulate trailer position, and the RTLS tags themselves.

Now, when a truck enters the yard, AeroScout’s battery-operated Wi-Fi tag is attached to the trailer using a temporary mount. The gatekeeper scans both the trailer’s bar code data and the tag to associate the two, and the information is automatically integrated with the existing yard management software. The driver is given an assigned parking spot, just as before. Now, when a spotter needs to locate a particular trailer for pickup, he radios a central manager, who looks up the location of the tagged trailer. The spotter can immediately locate the trailer. As trucks leave the facility, the tag is removed from the trailer, and the tag can be reused. The implementation of the RTLS has reduced APS’ trailer-searching time from 30 minutes per trailer to practically nothing and drastically reduced the need for dedicated spotter labor.