by June 30, 2011 0 comments

VM Salgaocar & Bros is a mining company in Goa, that uses tipper trucks to carry iron ore from mines to processing plants covering an average distance of 25 km. Each truck used to be issued a manual slip at four major locations between the mine and the plant. Tracking data from these slips was a challenge as one can imagine. Several attempts at automating the process had failed in the past.

What was deployed

The company finally decided to deploy GPRS based NFC mobiles at each of the loading/unloading sites, and issued RFID cards to all its truck drivers. They eliminated manual issuing of slips at each location and even stopped using computers and networks. The real motive behind the implementation was to create a centralized database with all information about the movement and efficiency of trucks.

One of the challenges that the management faced during implementation was non-availability of reliable and consistent GPRS signals at remote mines. After signing up with Vodafone, they installed ‘COW’ (cell on wheels) stations at the mines, and now they are able to provide a reliable GPRS signal for the RFID operation.

The project ensures capturing of the entire process involving loading and weighing accurately by reading the passive RFID tags of trucks. This records every transportation trip’s data, accurately merging trips along ‘data generating’ phases and reporting online and simulating the same for trip transportation monitoring to the stake-holders in ‘near’ real-time manner. This eliminated the time and efforts required for data entry, collating, re-verification and later processing reports by the IT department.

The Benefits

RFID saves time and effort by shortening and automating the manual processes, like a transport officer allotting trucks to each mine or maintaining manual attendance registers for each truck reporting at site. The loading supervisor doesn’t have to manually write paper slips for each truck carrying iron ore.

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The Weighbridge operator only has to observe if the truck driver has showed the card to the reader or not. The unloading officer can re-direct a truck if the truck load is not destined for his stack.

The IT department does not have to send someone with USB to pick up data files from each weighbridge across different mines (simplified of late by connecting some of them wirelessly).

No data-entry and re-verification of this data is necessary. Now the mine manager approves the data being displayed from this new online monitoring system, and then simply exports the data directly in the format required for the in-house ERP system for onward data processing and payment calculations, etc.

This also helps the management to monitor the amount of time a truck takes between stops. This helps keep a tab on driver irregularities. Truck reporting, loading, weighment and unloading processes are now fully automated. Transactions are instantly captured and uploaded to a web server via GPRS and truck reporting done through mobile devices. Also, the online monitoring screen displays relevant data, which helps logistics office to advise the respective loading supervisor if he has to change the loading parameters or if a different ore grade has to be transported.

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The RFID project went live in Feb this year, and has been running in parallel with the older, manual system since then, to allow the workforce to get accustomed to it. The company will completely shift to the automatic system in September after the monsoons.

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