Helping the helpers: Siemens IT Solutions and Services devises RFID solution for seamless tracking and tracing of aid shipments

Helping the helpers: Siemens IT Solutions and Services devises RFID solution for seamless tracking and tracing of aid shipments

Munich - Siemens IT Solutions and Services offers military and aid organizations a full-service solution for seamlessly tracking and identifying shipments and goods — from the original order to their arrival at the destination and back to the warehouse. In addition, an early-warning system guarantees that the required aid shipment will function immediately at its destination. This IT solution is the first of its kind to integrate an SAP application with RFID, GSM and GPRS technology.

Global aid shipments have particularly complex logistical requirements. The main warehouse schedules and controls the initial and follow-up shipments. It orders the necessary goods, receives and stores them, packages them, determines the transportation route and ships them in containers to their destination. To provide the on-site staff with the best possible support, headquarters needs to know the containers’ current position, i.e. whether the goods are still in transit or have already arrived at their destination and can be distributed or deployed. The new Siemens solution provides this information, which is generated and forwarded via RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), instantly and makes sure that it is made available to the SAP application via defined interfaces.

For example, if an aid organization needs a power generator, the project manager draws up a list of all required components, such as a fuel tank, the generator itself and various cables. He requests these via the ordering system and initiates their shipment via airfreight. Before the items are loaded on the plane, the RFID transponders attached to them are used to automatically compare the bill of lading with the order list. This makes it easy to determine whether the shipment is complete or if something needs to be reordered.

For transport, all the parts for the generator are packed into a single container, to which a GPS/GPRS module is attached. During the flight, this module regularly reports the container’s current position and status to the main warehouse and the destination. And when the container reaches its destination, it automatically sends a signal to both warehouses.

At the destination, the container’s functionality is monitored online by an early-warning system: temperature sensors trigger an alarm when the generator overheats and tank level sensors indicate when more fuel is needed. Programmed service intervals notify the operations center when it’s time to call a technician. When the generator is no longer needed, it is shipped back to the central warehouse — again while being monitored seamlessly via RFID, GSM and GPRS.