Computer/Embedded Technology


Case study: vehicle-mounted computing achieves realtime traceability

16 May 2007 Computer/Embedded Technology

As is well-known, warehousing logistics has benefited greatly from the development of bar-code scanning systems.

However, implementation of new technologies that are intended to fulfil precise functions is never a simple process. The keynotes of a successful new system are efficiency and trouble-free operation.

System requirements

The end-user, a major food manufacturer with a busy warehouse, required an efficient vehicle-mounted computer to log and relay incoming and outgoing merchandise to the company's logistics control centre. The new mobile computer required a bar-code scanner and a 10,4" high brightness LCD display for mounting onto forklifts. The main function of the computer would be to maintain efficient inventory control and ordering logistics. A Korean system integrator (SI), Nuri Telecom, was commissioned to update an antiquated system.

Realtime traceability of inventory and shipment

The SI chose to offer the TREK-755, Advantech's fanless, vehicle-mounted computer. It offers an x86 based core, the latest platform which outperforms competing RISC systems. The TREK mobile computer is supported by WLAN and must supply essential data for storing, locating and moving merchandise for inventory management and outbound shipment. The data recorded by TREK-755 would include storage locations, quantities and schedules. Automatic tracking is central to the logistics system: locating stock must be error-free and instantaneous, and must catalogue all incoming and outgoing merchandise. Simultaneously, each scanner and TREK must register the forklift number used to receive and handle the merchandise; the logistics system can then compute each forklift's efficiency while tracking its location in the warehouse. The system assigns tasks equitably. Since orders must be fulfilled quickly, the system must establish a robust capacity for well-planned logistical turnarounds.

Tough conditions

The toughest criterion was presented by environmental conditions: the TREK-755 must be built to withstand continuous daily use year-round, in both summer and winter conditions. In the winter, the TREK-755 is required to start up outside in cold temperatures of -20°C.

The TREK-755 is also subject to strict reliability and performance requirements. The power requirements of the TREK-755 must conform to power sources already available on an existing fleet of forklifts, which include a range of DC batteries: 12, 24 and 48 V. Simultaneously, it must be rugged, easily programmed and fully integrate with vehicles and warehousing equipment already in use. The Advantech system proved to be the most accessible, offering the easiest and most practical implementation of all available systems.

The system

The TREK-755 is built into a very compact and completely sealed aluminum enclosure. The aluminium enclosure is tough enough to endure the vibration from forklifts and is impervious to dust and water from daily operations.

* Improves warehousing management efficiency: The TREK-755 integrates a wireless LAN solution, which streamlines the unit for round-the-clock, inside and outside operations. It can be equipped with a high-brightness display, which is necessary for efficient operation.

* Fulfils computing tasks in sub-zero conditions: the TREK-755 anti-freeze platforms are guaranteed to perform consistently through winter and summer.

* X86 system empowers flexible programming: The TREK-755 offers an x86-based computer core for rapid configuration and operation. An XP Pro Embedded OS supports the inventory software and wireless relay to the central logistics system. The SI programmed the porting and information relay applications with Visual C++.



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