Advance Supply Chain Logistics With Zebra Location Technologies

According to RevLogical President and CTO Ryan Wager, “Segistics is the combination of people, processes and technology created to handle the unique logistics of over, short and damaged (OS&D) shipments for the primary retail, commercial and industrial markets. The goal is to find them a new home in the secondary market as efficiently as possible.”

The secondary market for RevLogical comes in the form of its own retail arm, Retail Rebel, which consists of seven brick-and- mortar stores in Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, and a large weekly “buy the pallet” auction at its headquarters in North Kansas City. Through these channels, RevLogical is able to repurpose thousands of valuable, displaced products each week. “We utilize unique

sales approaches focused on high volume and quick turnaround transactions to ensure truckloads of products we receive from freight carriers and big-box retailers can be redistributed to the public,” Wager explains.

The challenge for RevLogical was how to manage this flow of goods quickly and accurately: first identifying freight as it arrived, then capturing relevant details about contents and condition, and finally making that information available to partners and potential customers. And they wanted to know the exact location of each item at all times in over 300,000 square feet of warehouse space.

The answer was a complete radio frequency identification (RFID) solution from RevLogical’s preferred technology provider, Zebra.

Pioneering New Workflows

“Before Zebra, we were using spreadsheets and labels,” Wager remembers. “It was an incredibly manual process.”

Trucks would arrive bearing every imaginable kind of good, from lost or damaged freight brought by less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers to returns and overstock shelf pulls sent by big-box retailers. Individual pallets were unloaded, cataloged in a manual system, and physically moved to an available location in a large warehouse.

“All of that took an extensive amount of time,” Wager says. “It lowered the efficacy; the match rate was very low. Our technology provides carriers more transparency and visibility used to match and recover shipments previously thought to be lost in transit.”

The first step toward managing its remarkably diverse and fluid inventory was implementing a system of Zebra label printers and barcode scanners into its workflow.

“The difference was immediate,” Wager says. “As soon as we started to scan the freight at its source, when it first comes out of the truck, our efficiency rates climbed. We could add a new label that was in our format and reflected the data we needed to process each item. We immediately recognized the benefit of this new process on our operations.”

RevLogical COO Jason Sommerville adds, “With the time we saved, we were able to divert 20% of our saved labor to other business needs while increasing our value of service by providing 100% real-time inventory accountability. We’ve been striving for this throughout my 20 years of work in this industry, and we now have it.”

This initial success motivated RevLogical to search for a more complete and automated solution. The team wanted active, immediate, real-time answers for questions like, “Is that item still here at the warehouse?” or “When did you last see it?” and “Where is it standing?” It began investigating real-time location systems (RTLS) and RFID technologies.

“When we first considered an RFID-based technology, Zebra was the only option,” Wager says. “We had a decent relationship with Zebra already on our printers and scanners, and Zebra antennas and RFID readers came highly recommended and met every requirement. Even now, looking back, I don’t think there’s anybody else that could compete with them.”

Zebra recommended a system of ATR7000 RTLS Readers supplemented by FX9600 and FX7500 Fixed RFID Readers to track the location and movement of goods within RevLogical’s large warehouse facility. With multiple readers in place, RevLogical is now able to pinpoint the position of items in its warehouse down to the square foot.

Immediate Benefits

The introduction of Zebra technology quickly enabled significant improvements in RevLogical’s workflow.

“Within a matter of a week or two, it was very evident that this was transformative to our business,” Wager says. “It has greatly improved the timeliness and efficacy of all our processes. We’re able to match a much higher percentage of the freight that comes in. Products reach their end stage in fewer steps, and those items that can’t be matched are able to be recovered and sold much quicker for higher amounts.”

The advantages of Zebra location solutions also benefit RevLogical’s partners and customers up the supply chain. Being able to process incoming shipments quickly and accurately allows RevLogical to handle larger volumes more efficiently and with greater frequency, which in turn allows RevLogical’s clients to spend less time and space on OS&D shipments.

The breadth of Zebra’s portfolio and expertise makes the company an especially valuable technology provider for RevLogical. “We have a good team put together,” says Rhett Place, RevLogical’s Principal Engineer. “It’s gone well. It’s very helpful to have one source of contact and one support channel. I also think, from a technical standpoint, once you start learning the way that a technical stack works, it’s very helpful to not have to learn an entirely new stack.”

“Nearly every key performance indicator (KPI)—every reverse logistics metric—is improved by the increased visibility, accuracy, accessibility, time and return provided by this RTLS and RFID solution,” says Wager. “When we have to sell something, we sell it faster and for more money because of Zebra technology.”

“You can break down every step in what we do and clearly see how Zebra technology makes that step more effective.” — Ryan Wager

Vision for the Future

“One of the best parts of doing this job and working with companies like Zebra is that sometimes the use case shows itself when a new feature or enhancement arrives, one we would have never even considered,” says Wager.

The next phase of RevLogical’s technology evolution involves integrating cameras and real-time imaging with Zebra’s location technologies.

The original plan was simply to plot objects as dots on the map using RTLS. But RevLogical soon realized that the precision of Zebra’s ATR7000 RTLS Readers could be combined with programmable tilt-and- zoom cameras to obtain visual representations of items in the warehouse, without having to send workers out to capture images manually.

“We’re increasing the concentration of ATRs by 30% in these areas to get a more granular view of the physical location so we can link the camera to it and allow remote visibility into the precise location of each item,” explains Wager.

Wager envisions a future supply chain that can be made more efficient and robust through technology and process improvements—and RevLogical’s brand of Segistics.

“We’ve got the technology and best practices and processes to keep things from getting lost in our logistics network, and we’re partnering with our carriers to utilize this technology to help keep goods from ever making it to us. Today’s lessons in managing disruptions will continue to motivate customers long after the supply chain recovers,” Wager says. “The weakest link affects the entire chain. Our link has to be as strong and efficient as possible. Zebra is a big part of that.”

“Right now, our focus is just to make our end of the logistics process as perfect as possible and always keep thinking bigger in terms of the technology.” —Ryan Wager

 

Article by: Zebra Technologies