Tracking Reusable Assets with RAIN RFID Dock Door Solution

Johnson Controls turned to a RAIN RFID solution to ensure their returnable shipping containers being used by the company’s Automotive Experience division were being sent back in a timely manner. They saw:

  • 99% read accuracy rate of tagged items
  • Increased visibility of their shipping container inventory
  • Reduced operating costs due to increased shipment returns

Johnson Controls Profile:

In October 2016, Johnson Controls' Automotive Experience division, which supplies automotive seating, interiors and electronics to automakers, became its own separate, publicly traded company called Adient.

As a major global manufacturer, Johnson Controls employed over 170,000 people in more than 1,300 locations across six continents.

Impinj Solution Partner 

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Johnson Controls automates asset management to reduce costs

Johnson Controls had a mystery to solve: thousands of shipping containers sent out by its Automotive Experience division had gone missing. With values of up to $1,500, the missing containers were more than just an inconvenience—they were expensive too.

Containers filled with parts were sent to distribution centers or plants across the nation, with the expectation that they would be returned empty for future use by the company. However, due to the vast number of containers being sent out, and their relative homogeneity in appearance, it became increasingly difficult to track them, and find them once they had gone missing.

Using the SLS and Impinj RAIN RFID dock door solution, Johnson Controls was able to gain full visibility into their fleet of shipping containers:

  • Reusable containers are tagged with RAIN RFID tag chips which correspond to vital information like identity, destination and more
  • SLS smartPORTALs with Impinj Speedway readers inside are placed on either side of the approximately eight-foot wide dock doors
  • As containers move in and out of Johnson Controls' dock doors, the Speedway readers collect the item's identity, direction of travel and location
  • Solution software monitors container availability and location, providing opportunity to address problems if containers are not promptly returned

Asset management is easy with RAIN RFID

  • Reducing Costs with Automated Asset Management
    With values of shipping containers ranging from $3 to $1,500, losing thousands of items had added up. Through their investment in a RAIN RFID dock door solution, Johnson Controls can now see when their containers move through dock doors and easily identify which customers are mis-using or failing to return empty crates and racks. Missing units can be recovered, and returned back into the network, removing costs associated with replacement pieces.
  • Easy Inventory Counts
    With over 875,000 containers of varying types, keeping track of those available was difficult, especially when relying on manual or semi-automated processes. With fully automated inventory visibility, Johnson Controls could know at any time exactly what was available to carry shipments out to customers. A labor-intensive count process has been reduced from days to mere minutes. 

With the mystery of the missing containers successfully solved, Johnson Controls is now exploring ways they can further implement RAIN RFID technology to improve their operations and provide better service.

"If I have a distribution center sitting on containers for two days, I can see that. We're changing the paradigm. What we're saying is, 'This is an asset of Johnson Controls, and we want it back. We know where it is, and if you have it, we're going to come looking for it."

- Brian Kelly, Director of Supply Chain Management at Johnson Controls


Impinj (NASDAQ: PI) wirelessly connects billions of everyday items such as apparel, medical supplies, and automobile parts to consumer and business applications such as inventory management, patient safety, and asset tracking. The Impinj platform uses RAIN RFID to deliver timely information about these items to the digital world, thereby enabling the Internet of Things.

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