Ahlsell is a leading and fast growing Nordic trading company of installation products, tools and machinery. It offers a wide range of products and services to professional users in the segments of heating, plumbing, electrical tools and machinery, refrigeration and DIY (do it yourself). Ahlsell suppliers are found in 250 locations in 6 countries. The group has an annual turnover of around 2,5 billion euros and 4,500 employees.
Each year Ahlsell delivers 5.5 million parcels in Sweden – a considerable volume with high demands on precision, punctuality and efficiency in logistics. Ahlsell needed a solution that helped them to keep track of assets and utilize automated loading control. The previous barcode solution used by Ahlsell’s logistics was slow and could not enable enough control for such volumes. As a result, the company started looking for a more advanced solution that would support high volumes with more accuracy and further automation of the processes.
After using internal solutions for a long time, Ahlsell chose to try something external. The specific RFID solution that Ahlsell chose was delivered by Vilant and included hardware, software and installation. The automation and efficiency that this system provides, facilitates the handling of large volumes in a controlled manner.
Each of Ahlsell’s plastic containers and metal racks is now tagged with robust UHF RFID tags. RFID tags attached to the freight carriers contain a returnable asset identifier developed by GS1, also called a GRAI (Global Returns Asset Identifier) that identifies each load carrier, and makes it easy to follow and track on individual level.
At the loading gates, RFID readers and antennas are installed and the tags on the load carriers are read and verified automatically using Vilant’s software. This enables automatic loading control by identifying all shipped containers and their intended location. If a faulty load carrier passes an RFID gate, the system will trigger a loud sound alarm to eliminate any delivery failure and additional costs.
On the displays at the gates, the truck drivers can see the gate loading window based on the automated loading schedule for each departure. The effects of the system are significant. Last year Ahlsell had 110 boxes sent to wrong destination containing packages to several customers. Since the implementation of the RFID system there has only been one delivery error. Today Ahlsell knows exactly how long each asset has been outside the warehouse and if it’s not returned in time, the carriers have to replace them.
“The solution is working very well and we estimate that pay off time for new system will be lower than one year”, says Daniel Johansson, Head of Logistics in Ahlsell. “The number of errors has reduced dramatically which means that our customer satisfaction has increased and we spent less time resolving issues. Also, load carriers are not lost anymore so we don’t need to purchase as many new ones as we did before.”
Fewer errors and better control and visibility result in:
• Increased customer satisfaction
• Decreased cost for claims
• Decreased freight cost with less delivery errors
• Less manual handling and additional work
• Decreased loss of asset
• Better visibility and traceability – ongoing and historical events