Radio tracking programme for postal system to expand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am

A nationwide pilot programme on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is expected to expand, following the results of a strategic deployment in China's postal system, industry experts say.

China Post has verified that RFID cuts the time it takes to process mail bags which are automatically tracked moving through various points in their processing cycle.

That positive mandate was based on an RFID project that tracked express mail bags in the Shanghai postal district by technology supplier Symbol Technologies and partner systems integrator Concord Unity International.

The initiative was completed in March. Financial details were not disclosed as the programme is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Chen Liangan, vice-president of Shanghai Post, said: 'During this project we successfully proved that we can greatly improve our postal bag processing productivity over the current bar code system with nearly 100 per cent accuracy.'

He expected 'significant operational improvements and cost savings for China Post when RFID is implemented nationwide'.

'Given the increased demand for Express Mail Service we are looking to deploy technologies that can improve productivity and help us meet our customer demands in the most efficient manner,' he said.

RFID employs an infrastructure comprising silicon tags, readers, software and other communications and computing hardware to help track inventory through the supply chain. The technology is currently used to complement bar code tracking systems which rely on some manual intervention.

China Post deployed more than 60,000 reusable RFID tags from Symbol for the Shanghai Post Express Mail Service. The tags were estimated to account for about 320,000 yuan annual cost savings for Shanghai Post.

Supporting that implementation was more than 20 fixed readers, about 40 handheld RFID tag readers and more than 60 high-performance antennas - all from Symbol and set up by Concord Unity.

The international express mail service in Shanghai is one of three such exchange bureaus under China Post. Its business covers 2,000 cities on the mainland and more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. More than 10 million postal bags and goods are processed every year by Shanghai Post.

'Both Symbol and Concord Unity are looking forward to bringing the benefits of RFID technology to other China Post operations,' said Gao Jianfei, chief executive of Concord Unity.

The two companies are also involved with the RFID-based luggage tracking and management project at Beijing International Airport. The project was started early this year. Symbol was the main RFID technology supplier to the Hong Kong Airport Authority.