Successfully coordinating internal logistics represents a significant part of every plant’s daily operations. However, it is easy to underestimate the amount of waste that logistical concerns can create.

One of the world’s largest fertilizer companies faced similar challenges in their logistical planning. These problems became so severe that it impeded the delivery of production. They partnered with Stefanini IHM to co-create a solution and automate time-consuming documentation activities and optimize internal logistical controls.

The Business Challenge

While challenges related to truck deployment and inventory control contributed to the overall delay, Stefanini IHM took a wide view of this company’s activities to determine opportunities for optimization. The core of the issue was that the marking process, which took place during loading and unloading processes, was slowed because it depended upon people performing necessary fiscal documentation.

Without internal logistical controls, harvest time production was slowed to the point that it generated queues at the plant entrance. On several occasions, trucks stopped on the road shoulder received fines.

To improve internal logistical controls, it was necessary to track trucks present on-site and create automated queues. Similarly, the entire loading process was examined comprehensively to determine primary bottlenecks in the loading process and present possible means of improvement.

Finally, fiscal documentation steps needed to be reviewed in order to determine possible opportunities for automation. These coincided with weight documentations that took place at the plant entrance and exit.

How We Helped

Stefanini IHM implemented improvement and process automation, including instrumentation, commissioning, and start-up.

An RFID identification system was implemented to quickly track and identify all trucks present at the plant site. Likewise, self-service terminals were installed to allow truck drivers to check in with biometric identification, sound, and pager systems. Additionally, internal driver navigations and traffic throughout the plant were controlled with traffic lights. Together, these systems organized the flow of drivers entering the plant.

Similarly, weight documentation was automated with a system that leveraged RFID identification and an OCR image reading system that read truck plates upon entry, automating access and automatically activating weighing procedures and invoice issuance.  Furthermore, drivers were given access to route optimization through decision support terminals.

Solution

The loading capacity of the plant increased by more than 300%, going from 576 to 1,920 trucks per day. OCR identification automated the recognition of vehicles present at the plant. Accounting for the fact that OCR technology is subject to malfunctions that result from weather conditions, lighting, or dirty/dented plates, and an efficient solution was implemented to avoid malfunction-related slowdowns.

This was based on two technologies that reach assertive conclusions. The first was an algorithm to analyze the camera streams and the second to analyze snapshots while applying image optimizations.

Together, the two solutions obtained satisfactory results without compromising the performance of the application as a whole.

Automated screening procedures through RFID technology led to the real time location of the trucks throughout the plant and overall route optimization. This included the commissioning of 33 raspberries, 75 antennas distributed throughout the plant, 13 LED displays, 24 PLCs, 14 cancellations, 25 biometric readers, 10 plate recognition points, and 600 RFID tags.

These RFID identification touch points enabled the company to leverage statistical data about truck movements and identify bottlenecks in the process, which was fundamental for implementing improvements to logistical processes. In addition to internal logistical control, real time tracking gave a sense of the main challenges while providing KPIs to monitor for improvement.  

Entry into the plant and all tax steps, including weighing and invoicing, are performed automatically, saving considerable time and expense. This depended on the localization and image recognition that allowed the integration of the entire production process chain.

From the primary entry point to the access controls at the port zone, all documentation steps for entry and exit were automatically registered to meet tax regulation standards for this zone. Further, integration with SAP was made to ensure that manual access to the SAP system for fiscal procedures was unnecessary.

‍These systems worked in tandem with self-service stations to guarantee security, since driver identification depended on biometric identification. Similarly, QR code readers were positioned for quick identification of vehicle process data through a unique database.

Finally, predictability of truck flow was managed through pre-scheduling, which was set as a condition for the release of access to the unit. This was integrated with planned service to avoid unnecessary peaks in movement. Optimized sequencing, aimed at improving unit production and increasing delivery capacity. Analysis from the loading sequence to the formulation of web scheduled traffic for both customers and carriers.

About Stefanini IHM

Founded in 1994, IHM become a part of the Stefanini group in 2015, in what formed the largest LATAM operational technology company. Today, Stefanini IHM operates across the entire industry vertical: from the assembly of panels and electro-centers to the implementation of innovative technologies and mindset changes that enable Digital Transformation.

As a system, instrumentation, electrical, and Industrial IT integrator, Stefanini IHM has been expanding its activities over the years and continues to enable the automation of electrical and IT projects.

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