Vaughn, Ont.—When Axios Mobile Assets Corp. knocked on J.D. Smith’s door last year and asked if the company wanted to participate in a pilot project involving radio frequency identification (RFID) the answer was “yes.”
Not surprising, given the project aimed to improve shipment tracking while testing an environmental alternative to wood pallets.
J.D. Smith (a third-party logistics company in Vaughn, Ont.) had just the right customer in mind—a manufacturer of packaged foods, using a closed-loop supply chain.
Axios—a provider of logistics solutions also based in Vaughn— supplied 50 bio-based composite pallets, equipped with its proprietary tracking software and embedded RFID tags.
J.D. Smith tried them out for six months, shipping food packages (that had previously traveled on wood). Results were encouraging, and the company plans to offer the system to other customers.
“The partnership with Axios resulted in very real benefits for us and our customer,” said Scott Smith, president and CEO of J.D. Smith, in a press release following the project.
“The pilot program helped us to identify ways to further enhance and streamline the logistics and delivery process, saving time and money…”
How did it work?
Axios Mobile Assets supplied the pallets, tracking software, and a mobile app for J.D. Smith drivers. It also integrated its web-based logistics portal with J.D. Smiths’s pick/pack, staging and shipping processes.
RFID readers were placed inside the warehouse. As pallets passed the readers, product and shipping information was transmitted directly to J.D. Smith’s system. Prior to the project, J.D. Smith didn’t track shipments at the pallet level.
The RFID data gave the company a better understanding of the client’s delivery and distribution patterns, allowing for troubleshooting and optimization.
The customer was an ideal choice, Smith said, because it was a closed-loop environment. The customer’s deliveries and shipments come out of J.D. Smith’s facility, on J.D. Smith equipment. Pallets are either returned the same day or left at one of the client’s sites.
Aside from improved tracking at the pallet level, J.D. Smith discovered another benefit. The composite pallets—made from bio-based resin/calcium carbonate—are smoother, so bagged food products weren’t catching on chards and nails during transport, as they sometimes did on wooden pallets, he added.
According to Axios, the pallets weigh 47 lbs., are 2,800-lb. edge rackable, measure 48 by 40 inches and operate at temperatures from -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-34.4 degrees Celsius) to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).
Manufactured just outside Windsor, Ont., they don’t contain the fire-retardant decabromine/Decabromodiphenyl ether like their high-density polyethylene pallet cousins.
The bio-based resin is also FDA-compliant and ISO-certified, and the pallets don’t need to be heat-treated, like wooden pallets, before crossing the border into the US, said John Psihos, vice-president of IT and sustainability at Axios.
The proprietary manufacturing process uses less equipment and less energy than comparable injection-molded plastic pallets. At the end of a pallet’s lifecycle, it can be ground up and used as material for other applications, Psihos said.
Although the up-front costs are higher than with wooden counterparts, users save money over the 10- to 12-year life of the pallet since they don’t need to be replaced as often as wood pallets. The bigger sell though, is sustainability, he added.
“The value proposition is the whole environmental side and being able to introduce some efficiencies into logistics…We can offer carbon credits on top of the tracking capabilities.”
From J.D. Smith’s perspective, the pallets performed well and came with a lighter, less toxic footprint than traditional pallets.
“The durability is something that was important and we were impressed with that,” Smith said, adding they were also happy with the data collected.
“But it was sustainability, not cost-savings and tracking enhancements that ultimately drove the project,” he concluded.