By Edson Perin
Feb. 16, 2012—The Brazilian Air Force
(FAB) is modernizing the operations of its Centro Logístico da Aeronáutica
(CELOG), or Air Logistics Center, which is responsible for managing the monthly purchase of thousands of tons of materials. Much of these materials circulate between the Brazilian Aeronautical Commission in Washington
(CABW), the Brazilian Aeronautical Commission in London
(CABE) and the Depósito da Aeronáutica Rio de Janeiro
(DARJ), the Air Force's depot in Rio. In order to increase its agility and operational efficiency, CELOG put in place a warehouse-automation project using radio frequency identification
technology. The project is initially employing passive EPC Gen 2 RFID
tags to identify the materials issued by CABW and CABE and later received by DARJ.
The reading of data from RFID tags is conducted via four RFID portals—two located within the United States, at CABW, for the shipment of materials by air and sea, and two others in Brazil, at DARJ, for the receiving, storing and dispatching of materials for the http://www.cecan.aer.mil.br/ Correio Aéreo Nacional> (CAN), the national air-mail service operated by the Brazilian military. According to FAB Lieutenant Colonel Ascef Rogers, CELOG's manager of IT and logistics, the use of RFID technology led to a significant improvement in the cargo-handling process. The shipment of materials to Brazil—which, prior to the adoption of RFID, could take three to four days to complete—can now be carried out in only three hours. What's more, due to the complexity of the materials transported, the delivery process previously resulted in discrepancies of 2 percent between the documentary record and the load itself. With RFID, he says, the error rate has since dropped to 0.005 percent.
Pallets loaded with tagged FAB materials
was responsible for project installation, configuration, testing and the activation of equipment for automatic data capture (RFID portals, mobile computers and printers). The company also integrated these devices with FAB's enterprise resource planning system, known as Sistema Integrado de Logística de Materiais e de Serviços (SILOMS), or Integrated Logistics Services and Materials. With the implementation of RFID, the Air Force reports that it has increased the productivity of material handling between the Washington, London, Rio de Janeiro and CAN sites by 600 percent. The time required to prepare the necessary documentation for the materials' shipment was reduced from hours down to one minute, while the receipt of a container full of materials at DARJ was reduced from eight hours down to 45 minutes.
"When we started planning the project in 2008, we had serious mobility problems in logistics and reliability of material," Ascef states. For the picking and shipping operations at CABW, the operator selects materials for shipment to Brazil. The use of RFID, he says, has raised productivity and accuracy levels during the delivery and receipt of materials. "This technology will also be essential to help increase the efficiency of logistics for fighting exercises."
After being picked, the materials are placed in containers or on pallets, and then pass through RFID portals installed at shipping docks, which automatically read
the tags. With the completion of the process, the system sends an advance shipping notice to the Transportation Management System (TMS)—the part of SILOMS containing information regarding the material shipped.
Once the cargo arrives at DARJ, the operator transports the material to a receiving dock, where it is then recorded using a mobile RFID portal
. The system generates a file containing information about the materials received, which is sent to the TMS SILOMS. The materials are then segregated at a warehouse until being released by Brazil's internal revenue service, Receita Federal
. After their release, the materials are separated, stored or sent to the CAN posts throughout Brazil. "The materials we are carrying are all sorts of products for aircraft: engine, parts, tires, radar and other things used by the FAB," Ascef explains.
Lieutenant Colonel Ascef Rogers, manager of IT and Logistics at CELOG
The entire process begins when a supplier makes a delivery. This is immediately identified by means of the RFID tags, and the system then issues an alert to those in Brazil, reporting the product's arrival. "Our ERP
system alerts everyone in Brazil," Ascef says. "The transport is by container ship when it comes out, or pallets, when it is by plane."
All cargo, regardless of the means of transport used, passes through the RFID portal. "So the product is already signed electronically by the system," Ascef says, "and data, transmitted to Brazil, reports which plane is taking what." The process time is thereby dramatically reduced, he adds, thanks to RFID technology.
"The person picks up a load by forklift, passes beneath a portal and, by doing so, already has a cargo manifest prepared," the lieutenant colonel states. "Before, you had to read the bar code
of everything that was being delivered, and sometimes materials had no bar code. Now, you can identify 300 items at once under the portal, without requiring the individual count. Data discrepancies have decreased to almost zero."
According to Ascef, the largest gains attained were reduced boarding times and improved accuracy in documentation and registration regarding the quantity of products shipped. "In an operation of war," he adds, "with this technology, we can transport a large amount of cargo very quickly and accurately."