Bakeries continue to deal with problems in tracking trays, dollies, baskets and other reusable fixed assets. A breakout session at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2012 in Chicago, IL, addressed this issue with a case study about new efforts to reduce this major cost to bakeries. Tray loss can run $100 million annually, according to Bob McGuire, vice-president and director of logistics, Alpha Baking Co., Chicago, IL, and chair of the American Bakers Association Logistics Committee.

Mr. McGuire presented part of the case study at BakingTech because his company participated in an ongoing pilot program that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to help reduce tray loss. In the past, RFID tags might have been cost-prohibitive for this application; however, their price has come down considerably in recent years making it a more viable option for tracking trays. Also, assisting with this pilot project and presentation were ORBIS Corp., Oconomowoc, WI, a tray manufacturing company, and The Kennedy Group, Willoughby, OH, which provides RFID material handling solutions. What started as a 90-day test to track trays evolved considerably, and the company reported positive results in gathering information about trays and reducing loss rates.

Pcdata, Inc., East Granbury, CT, and ToolBox Software North America, St. Paul, MN, also offer logistic management solutions to help bakeries reduce losses involving material handling equipment (MHE) like trays. Pcdata’s most recent module for its Distrib suite of warehouse management system solutions is Distrib MHE, which delivery drivers can use to track trays and racks that they pick up at various delivery points. “By logging the empties you pick up, you can begin to track where you are losing baskets,” said Marc Braun, president of Pcdata. “We are killing two birds with one stone; we are dealing with delivery accuracies and dealing with their empties.”

ToolBox provides several solutions to assist bakeries with tracking trays, including recording trays delivered to accounts using its dispoTool software, as well as using bar codes and RFID technology to further enhance tracking capabilities.