Hazardous materials tracking
TDG Chemicals implements innovative container tracking program

by Douglas McCartney, Identify UK

TDG is one of Europe’s leading supply chain management companies with over 7,000 employees providing services across Europe. TDG Chemical Logistics, TDG’s chemical division, specializes in the storage, handling and distribution of bulk chemicals. It operates the UK’s only dedicated packed chemicals network and offers multi-user capability with an extensive bulk chemicals fleet and operators experienced in handling dry, liquid and gaseous products in all hazard classes.

One of TDG Chemical’s key container types is the Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC). These are plastic bottles of about 1,000 liter capacity on a pallet base, enclosed by a metal cage. IBCs are distributed in large numbers through the network from manufacturers to their customers on a daily basis. “The business problem that we were presented with is that our chemical manufacturing customers were spending vast amounts of money on IBCs, but having difficulty finding out where they go, what happens to them and getting them back for reuse,” explains Mark Webster, TDG General Manager, Unitisation. “The challenge was to find a solution to ensure that IBCs were accurately tracked throughout their life, and proactively managed for faster cycle times and higher utilisation whilst also ensuring complete regulatory compliance.”

TDG Chemical turned to existing supplier RedPrairie and RFID partner RadiantWave to explore how RFID could enable better management of both its own fleet and those it planned to manage on behalf of its customers. The solution delivered provided a permanent, incorruptible unique identity on each IBC using the TROVAN ID-200 Industrial Low Frequency RFID tag. The ID-200 is capable of surviving all handling and cleaning operations for the life of the IBC. Ruggedized Portable Data Terminals were then used to capture operational movements, cleaning, service and maintenance activities at each site and uploaded through TDG’s secure network to provide managers with complete, real-time IBC visibility and automated administrative functions such as activity-based client billing.

Going live in September, 2006, TDG now has contracts for the management of more than 10,000 IBCs using the system for four clients. “We now make sure IBCs don’t go missing; move about faster and don’t hide anywhere; and if they are damaged, we can identify where in the supply chain the damage happened,” says Mark.

As a result, assets are working harder, saving costs for TDG and allowing a new managed IBC business model to be introduced for customers to trip-lease the containers, and thus passing on the benefits.

TDG’s IBC Management System is delivered on RedPrairie’s Mobile Resource application, configured for IBC handling, processes and terminology, and delivered with an integrated contract billing engine for generating IBC-specific trip, demurrage and service charges. Handheld terminals running EdgeRover are used to capture activities at source at transport hubs, cleaning stations and at customer sites.

The solution provides network-wide real-time visibility, querying and reporting capability to operations managers. It also provides pro-active management through the use of the Event Management System which constantly monitors all movements and activities network wide to issue pro-active web and e-mail exception alerts automatically for any potential issues identified as soon as they are detected, allowing for swift resolution.

RedPrairie and RadiantWave defines a set of system-to-system interfaces allowing customers to directly interface their own ERP and WMS systems to
TDG for capture of IB content and shipment information direct from their systems.
TROVAN technology was selected to provide the definitive identity on IBCs because ID-200 transponders feature exceptional ruggedness and chemical resistance, and a range of integrated readers. Psion Tekblogix Wrokabout Pro handheld terminals with both longrange 1D barcode laser scanners and integrated TROVAN readers were deployed on TDG sites and to manufacturing customers to allow the capture of IBC information effectively. The TDG system is delivered on a Microsoft platform including SQLServer database.