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Unipart Opens World’s First Advanced Supply Chain” Centre

Unipart, one of the leading logistics and distribution companies in Europe, is to open the world's first advanced logistics centre dedicated to improving supply chain business processes through the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology at Unipart's million sq ft distribution facility in Oxford.

RFID can have a multitude of uses within the supply chain including helping companies to cut road miles by “tagging” loads with a code that can be read by computers. The tag on the load then tells the computer in the lorry where to go and what time to get there. This new technology can make the process of delivering goods more efficient thereby saving money for distributors and reducing the use of fuel.

To demonstrate how RFID can benefit companies, Unipart has joined with partners Intermec, SAP and Core Control to create a 3D, large-scale model of a supply chain in part of Unipart Logistics' flagship distribution centre in Oxford.

Developed and perfected over five years, the facility is called the Global Enterprise Model (GEM). Unipart will use its 10,000 sq ft to demonstrate how RFID technology can be used to make the end-to-end supply chain, linking a raw material supplier to customer, much more efficient.

GEM simulates a real-life environment, complete with raw materials, picking systems, pallets and supermarket shelves complete with real goods, to create a clear understanding of the cost benefits of RFID technology throughout the supply chain.

The Unipart partnership is already using RFID technology with a number of its clients. As one of the largest privately owned companies in the UK, Unipart is well positioned to invest in not just the technology, but the development, training and integration of tools like RFID with world class, lean logistics. The GEM is a good example of how Unipart can bring a technical concept to life for its customers so that they identify clear benefits for their businesses.

Situating the GEM in the company's massive distribution complex in Oxford enables visitors to see how technology processes can be linked with the tools and techniques of the Unipart Way – the company's proprietary business system for continuous improvement and knowledge management — to bring benefits to customers such as High Street retailers, Halfords.

The Unipart headquarters site is one of the largest employers in Oxford and has been a showcase for The Unipart Way as well as the site of The Unipart U, one of the longest established corporate universities in Europe.

The GEM brings together three partners: Unipart, enterprise software specialist SAP and Intermec Technologies, which manufactures computer systems that identify, track and manage supply chain assets.

The GEM is underpinned by SAP's RFID platform, and uses Intermec's RFID tags, readers and printers. Visitors to the GEM can simulate advanced logistics processes and technology in a risk-free environment, to assess the benefits from RFID.

Managers, at all levels, can safely use GEM to model the benefits of RFID to their business. They can use their own software and processes which can be uploaded to the model. They can also compare and contrast Unipart tools to their existing ones. Once convinced of the cost benefits GEM can “train the trainers,” and train the staff on the ground again without putting customers and reputation at risk.

Carl Powell, General Manager of USP the Consultancy Division of Unipart Logistics, said: “With the agreement of new technical standards and the current investments being made by Tesco, M&S, Wal-Mart and other major retailers, it is evident that the roll-out of RFID in the UK is a matter of months away.

“SAP, Intermec and Unipart Logistics are working together to meet the needs of the organisations which will soon also adopt the technology.”

“The purpose of the facility is to demonstrate the real-life impact and benefits of an RFID-enabled supply chain. The facility can be used as a demonstration centre, but more importantly can be used to implement RFID trials to help build the business case for real-life implementations. The GEM brings together technology, business process and the people who will execute the work to ensure a seamless implementation and operation.

“Potential RFID investors can run their own software in the GEM to fully evaluate the benefits of RFID before implementing full-scale rollout at their own premises.”

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