07 February 2018

New Technologies Achieve Record Throughput at Different Ends of the Supply Chain  

From Autonomous Trucks to RFID Tags - Logistics Embraces the Future

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Shipping News Feature AUSTRALIA – US – Two companies, each occupying widely differing niches in the world of logistics, have reported record numbers this week, and both are inexorably linked with modern technology being utilised in maintaining and enhancing the freight supply chain. One has blazed a trail with the use of autonomous trucks, something now in the news daily, but used by mining group Rio Tinto for a decade, whilst the other, Tyco Retail Solutions, has used the tagging of retail products to aid billions of shoppers with everyday purchases.

Rio Tinto's fleet of autonomous cargo trucks achieved a significant milestone at the company’s operations in Australia last month, by moving its one-billionth tonne of material. Since commencing trial operations in 2008, vehicles fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology have now moved more than one billion tonnes of both ore and waste material across five sites in the Pilbara, including the newly commissioned Silvergrass mine.

Last year, Rio Tinto’s autonomous fleet accounted for about a quarter of the total material moved across the Pilbara mines. On average, each autonomous truck was estimated to have operated about 700 hours more than conventional haul trucks during 2017 and around 15% lower load and haul unit costs. Autonomous vehicles are operated by a supervisory system and a central controller, rather than a driver. They use pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate haul roads and intersections and to know actual locations, speeds and directions of other vehicles at all times.

The company says that there have been zero injuries attributed to autonomous haul trucks since deployment, highlighting the significant safety advantages in what is recognised as a particularly perilous field, prompting Rio Tinto to look toward increasing its current fleet of over 80 autonomous Komatsu trucks to more than 140 by the end of 2019. Rio Tinto has been partnering with Komatsu for 20 years and last September deployed the world’s first retrofitted Komatsu autonomous haul truck at its Hope Downs 4 operation. Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Chris Salisbury, said:

“Hauling one billion tonnes autonomously is an impressive milestone for our business and again highlights Rio Tinto’s pioneering spirit when it comes to adopting revolutionary new technologies which are making the industry safer and more efficient.

“We are studying future additions to our autonomous truck fleet that we expect will contribute to our $5 billion productivity programme, specifically Iron Ore’s commitment to deliver $500 million of additional free cash flow from 2021 onwards. We remain committed to working closely with our employees as we expand our autonomous haul truck fleet including providing opportunities for new roles, redeployment, retraining and upskilling.”

In December, Rio Tinto approved retrofit programmes to add autonomous technology to 48 existing Komatsu and Caterpillar haul trucks over the next two years. About 20% of Rio Tinto’s existing fleet of almost 400 trucks in the Pilbara is autonomous and following the completion of the retrofit projects, autonomous trucks will represent about 30% of the fleet.

Meanwhile in the US, Tyco Retail Solutions, part of Johnson Controls, has announced it has surpassed 63 billion consumer products source tagged to date, helping retailers protect more of what’s in store. The majority of its ‘Sensormatic’ labels are applied by product manufacturers or packaging companies at the source instead of in stores as was previously industry practice. The company’s programme encompasses source application of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) one-time use labels and reusable hard tags.

Tyco claims its programme is the largest in the industry, assisting the world’s top retailers to secure the most popular consumer and apparel items. Additionally, source tagging can help reduce 'shrink' by standardising product-level protection, while safeguarding virtually every product category. The programme ensures goods can directly on display leaving staff free to focus on customers and the popularity of the system has seen it achieve seven years of consecutive growth since 2011. Tony D’Onofrio, chief customer officer, Tyco Retail Solutions, said:

“We are proud to partner with leading global retailers and manufacturers in mutually growing the Sensormatic source tagging programme. With over 50 years pioneering new technologies, Sensormatic is the brand that retailers trust for quality and innovation. Our recirculated RFID-enabled hard tags are gaining momentum with retailers as a cost-effective and eco-friendly approach for deploying full scale apparel RFID programs.”

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