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RFID Based Business Process Automation for Harbor

RFID Based Business Process Automation for Harbor

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RFID Based Business Process Automationfor Harbor Operations in Container Depot
Youngil Kim*, Jung-Woon Yoo**, Namkyu Park**
* RFID/Ubiquitous Sensor Network Middleware Research TeamRFID/USN Research GroupElectronics Telecommunications Research Institute161 Ga-jeong-Dong, Yu-seong-Gu, Daejeon, 305-700, Korea** Department of Industrial and Manufacturing EngineeringWayne State University4815 Fourth St., Detroit, Michigan. 48202, U.S.A.
One of the most promising advantages in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) application isthe ability to automate the business process (BP), with minimum human intervention, by providing decision systems with accurate, real-time, and up-to-date data. This paper presents anRFID based business process automation system for harbor operations in container depot. Thecore system comprises RFID Event Management System (REMS) and Real-time BusinessProcess Triggering System (RBPTS). The REMS serves to reduce redundant data and aggregaterelevant data for minimization of data traffic. The RBPTS plays an important role in extractingsemantics from the refined data repository through rule-based inference engine and, at the sametime, automating back-end applications. Thanks to the RBPTS functions, one can achieveautomated harbor operations, such as checking scheduled incoming/outgoing items, issuingshipment notices, and so on. The proposed system has been partially implemented, in a real lifeapplication, to verify effectiveness of harbor operations in terms of reduction of work complexityas well as business process automation.Key words: RFID, business process automation, rule-based inference, harbor operations.
1. Introduction
Research on RFID applications, which was initiated by MIT Auto-ID Laboratory envi-sioning a world in which all electronic devices are networked (Sarma, 2001), is rapidly spreadingout all over the world. Relative advantages of RFID technology to current “barcode” based tech-nology have become widely known such as contact-less recognition, batch processing of data,and reusability. Recently, RFID technology has drawn much attention from not only researchfields, but also private and public sectors. Furthermore, fast price drop of RFID tags makes a progress of RFID applications to real world expedite. These days, there's a new trend to applyRFID technology in a large scale to maximize or improve enterprise-wide system efficiency and profitability,As the RFID technology is being diffused and applied to real world systems, research di-rection of RFID technology is accordingly changing from hardware development, such as chip or antenna design, to business application areas. RFID hardware per se, including RFID tags and
 
 
214readers, can play a meaningful role in business applications only when they integrate with inter-nal and external legacy systems, as well as other well-defined business processes. Having con-sidered the importance of software and business processes in parallel with legacy informationsystems, it is indispensable to have intelligent software systems designed for RFID technology todeal with large amounts of data and complex contents.From the viewpoint of business environment evolution, markets are being globalized andtransactions between business parties have become more active, semantically richer, more de- pendent on each other, and faster than ever. Business process automation systems focusing onimproving internal transactions of an enterprise is not suitable any more for emerging marketswhere external transactions become as important. (Park, 2003; Park and Nof, 2003) Sustainable business-to-business e-commerce can only be made possible through the collaborative synchro-nization of business processes among trading partners. (Forrester, 2000) Therefore, the conceptof collaborative business should be taken into account in designing RFID-based business appli-cations.In this paper, presented is an RFID based business process automation system for harbor operations in container depot, which leverages semantic information extracted by rule-based in-ference engine, so as to automate inter-organizational collaboration fully as well as an internalone in the end. The reasons we chose harbor operations in container depot as an application do-main are its potential to influence logistics companies and its wide range of applicability. (ETRI,2004) Harbor operations companies collaborate with many related companies such as shippers,ground transportation, storage, shipping and discharging companies, including domestic and for-eign customs. Because of such a huge network of business collaboration, once the technology issuccessfully applied in the gate management in container depot, the lessons we learned from thisapplication can be disseminated to other application areas with less effort, but with high adapta- bility. Furthermore, harbor operations companies provide a good environment to apply RFIDtags to various types of tools to hold goods in small boxes for a single product, cases and pallets,and containers. These companies also give an opportunity of applying different types of RFIDtags, in high or low frequency, with several types of batteries for the purpose of covering vastoutdoor yard areas as well as large indoor warehouses.This research was initiated and sponsored by the Korean government. Participants of the project consist of government funded research institutes, a number of enterprises ranging frominformation technology to harbor operations and logistics service provider, a domestic standardorganization, and several universities from both Korea and the United States. To make this re-search more practical and exemplary, we specifically considered diversity in the composition of collaboration partners. Therefore, we invited companies from the airline industry, harbor opera-tions, logistics, postal services, hospital management, and discount store similar to Wal-mart. Inaddition to a pilot run for validation purposes, the result of this research is continuously beingtested to develop a better model of business process automation and to find further applicationareas.The rest of this paper is organized as follows. Following literature review of the next sec-tion, RFID applicable business processes from harbor operations in container depot are intro-duced in section 3. Section 4 proposes an RFID middleware architecture which supports interop-erability between RFID hardware and enterprise information system and serves to implement business process automation in the end. In addition, the proposed event control engine and rule- based inference engine are presented in detail, respectively. Finally, a business showcase illustra-tion is shown in section 5.
 
 
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2. Literature review of related studies
RFID research area ranges from hard core technology such as tags, readers and antennato various application systems. Recent hard core technology research focuses on one of the big-gest difficulties for RFID applicability. Ukkonen et al (2004) proposed a patch antenna for pas-sive RFID of metallic objects. Flores et al (2005) presented a simply way of measuring the tag performance for RFID technology based on their implementation experience and laboratorymeasurements. Finally, Siden et al (2004) investigated performance degradation of passive RFIDtags due to bending of the RFID tag antenna.When it comes to RFID applications, we can find applications from various fields such assupply chain management (Ngai, 2005; Choy, 2005), logistics, library management (Smart,2004; Boss, 2003), and factory automation (Brusey, 2003). Ngai et al (2005) presents findings of a case study in a container depot aiming to keep track of the locations of stackers and containersand to improve visibility of the operations data and the control process. Their research has dis-tinctions in that they developed an RFID prototype system integrated with mobile commerce totransmit the information from the RFID readers to the main computer system. On the other hand,active RFID tags were used in construction sites to improve the efficiency of tracking tools andtheir availability, (Goodrum, 2005)Most of the research has focused on the identification and tracking of an RFID tag infor-mation (Ngai, 2005; Goodrum, 2005), while there is a growing demand on paying more attentionto internal and inter-organizational business process automation and semantic inference toachieve operational efficiency of a system and secure sustainable business processes.
3. RFID applicable business process for gate management incontainer depot
Figure 1, especially the shaded areas, shows RFID applicable business processes fromamong all the processes of harbor operations companies. (ETRI, 2004) According to ETRI’s business process analysis result, the most significant bottlenecks are non-real-time data acquisi-tion, data inaccuracy due to errors in hand written data, incorrect data entry into system, and ex-cessive workload in data acquisition regarding container related information such as container owners, contents, customs, and so on. (ETRI 2004) Non-real-time data acquisition causes ineffi-cient business processes. In addition, inaccurate data incur inoperable planning as well as inevi-table data correction. Therefore, RFID technology, which has real-time data transfer abilitywithout human intervention, is thought of as the most effective solution to solve these bottle-necks. Besides data accuracy and real-time data acquisition, using RFID technology is expectedto help locate containers in container yards, and track past and future time and location informa-tion of containers, of which customers have an interest in. In addition, accurate container infor-mation such as destination, weight, and contents helps decide loading sequence and location,which in turn affect the economy of unloading operations and ship balancing.

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