While Congress and President Bush wrestle with the future of Social Security, the agency that runs the program–the Social Security Administration–is using 21st century technology to track the quarter million line items which pass through its warehouse annually.
With help from System Concepts, Inc. – a North Carolina-based RFID ISV and solutions provider in the data collection business for 21 years, the last 5 in RFID–the SSA has installed the company’s OnPortal™ RFID Scan Tunnel that can scan cartons as they pass through at one time reading the ePC payload of each carton via an ISO 18000-6b tag, said System Concepts’ President and CEO L. Allen Bennett. According to Mr. Bennett, “Once we update SSA with the newer readers, we will read even more cartons through the portal.”
According to the company, OnPortal integrates inbound/outbound asset tracking and is comprised of the RFID scan tunnel, System Concepts’ Traxware™ software and integrated OnTrax™ RFID edge computer. OnPortal is integrated into the SSA’s Radio Beacon WMS application and is used to track inventory as well as generate EDI ASN data for internal and external SSA customers. Also included are four custom RFID antennas, a photo detector, a 20-character message board, and a three-color stack light.
As to standards being used, “it’s UHF-G2 based using ISO standards. We have based all of the design on the EPC Standards (SGTIN-96 and SSCC-96) using the exact format for the payload, while waiting for the new standards to be ratified,” said Mr. Bennett.
The SSA inventories 240,000 line items in three warehouse facilities in Woodlawn, Maryland, and the new system will help it keep accurate inventory location and shipping transaction records, Mr. Bennett said.
“RFID allows them (the SSA) to do more with less,” he said. “If I ship 100 cases of different types of forms, they have to scan 100 case labels. Pushing these cases through the portal, they can do it much quicker saving labor and time.”
One of the SSA’s primary functions, he added, “is to send the necessary forms to the Social Security branches around the nation. Think of it as in an inventory requirement and SSA’s challenge is to send the right form to the right person in the most economical way.”
System Concepts’ contract with the SSA was awarded last summer and the system had to be operational by last November. “We tried to create one of the industry’s first RFID solutions that is configurable off the shelf. We were able to configure and match their business processes to make them operational without having to write or modify code.”
Mr. Bennett said the OnPortal scan tunnel is set up with the antennas already tuned. “It also keeps the RF energy inside so you don’t have to worry about reading stray tags.” Another advantage is that the tunnel is built on wheels. “It’s mobile. You can move it to another door. So, instead of building tunnels for all your doors, you can have just one tunnel and move it to where it’s needed. And, by being on wheels, and with the antennas already tuned, you can rotate the tunnel 180 degrees, which gives you versatility for receiving in and shipping out.”
The SSA will be introducing an RFID-compliance label program for its major vendors so the administration can receive cartons already tagged similar to a supply chain model like the large retailers have implemented. “We are working with them to initiate a vendor compliance program, getting their vendors to tag the product prior to shipment,” said Mr. Bennett.
“I have to applaud the Social Security Administration and its directors for having the vision to see what technology is available and how to utilize that technology in-house without costing a fortune,” he added. “I’ve seen a lot of agencies and they’re (the SSA) probably ahead of many of them by introducing another cost effective form of data collection into their business practices.”
According to System Concepts, the OnPortal system and its Traxware software solutions. will be available soon to other government agencies under a contract with the General Services Administration (GSA).
Founded in 1984, SCI provides RFID and AIDC software solutions that enable RFID installations in the manufacturing, process control, asset tracking and EPC/DoD compliance markets.