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"Patrick Catthoor: "Enormously powerful instrument to optimize logistics"

Aucxis sees opportunities for RFID in fresh produce sector

Flemish company Aucxis has around 30 years of experience in deploying automation projects for various industries. In the fresh produce sector in particular, the company has an international reputation for its auction systems. Over the years, Aucxis has become further specialized in other areas, and now has an average annual yield of six million Euro, with the Business Unit RFID being the fastest grower at the moment. Shareholders are Flora Holland, Efice and LAVA, all of whom have a 30% share. 10% is in the hands of the management.

According to COO Patrick Catthoor, Aucxis has partly grown thanks to the Dutch and Belgian auctions. "Through this specialization, we have acquired niche knowledge, which we put into four Business Units, including E-trade, RFID solutions, ERP solutions and Process Control. "The main idea is that we do not approach too many market segments, but focus on aspects we're good at. We draw on our own existing platforms and frameworks, but still offer every customer a made-to-measure project, except for the cooling suites, which are almost fully standardized."



"In the E-trade share, that is the clock business, we're seeing revenue stalling or decreasing slightly in Europe," Patrick says. "This is due to mergers, increasing contract sales, mediation and distance purchases. Remarkably, in overseas areas we're actually seeing a growing demand. We've got E-trade projects running in China, Malaysia, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and various other countries. If a company, anywhere in the world, needs a clock system, they come to us 95% of the time." He explains that many overseas customers are based on a Dutch presence. "It's often Dutch specialists, growers or producer organizations going overseas to produce, introducing this structure over there. This is mainly the case with flowers, not so much with fruit and veg. There is also another group. These are often organizations from the country itself, trying to facilitate better and fairer trade." He notes that producer organizations regularly come to visit, looking for a possibility to sell their own products through the Aucxis system. "Such initiatives sometimes meet with an untimely demise, however, due to insufficient staying power and critical mass."

Process Control

Process Control
Aucxis' first activity was automating cooling systems: Process Control. "We've been doing ULO cells right from the start. Our clients here used to be producers, auctions and wholesalers directly. At the moment, however, our PCS department only operates as solution provider, as manufacturer of hardware and software. The marketing and implementation at end clients is fully handled by our dealer channels." Since last year, Aucxis has been offering a completely new ULO system. "It used to be that a control computer had to be built in, with a computer elsewhere showing statistics and the like. Now, everything is software based: two different working places are incorporated in one machine. Van Amerongen BV is marketing this software under the name 'App|ell'."

ERP Systems

Aucxis has also been offering ERP Systems for some time. "We have developed these from the E-trade systems, and we currently offer a system that's SAP worthy, but for a niche sector. At the moment we have around six clients we're supplying this to, and there's an organic growth in it." The LED panels were derived from the clock business. "At the moment, the trend is to replace clocks at the front of an auction hall by LED. But in industry or the world of publicity, we also supply large LED screens, where the emphasis is more on bespoke products."


One of the latest developments is RFID. "The difference with a bar code is huge. You can scan a bar code one at a time, but if products have an RFID tag, you're scanning in bulk. And it's fully automatic as well. You can also include much more data in an RFID tag, even serial numbers. A chip is incorporated in the label, functioning as a sort of antenna. The only advantage of a bar code now is that it's cheaper." Patrick points out that RFID isn't being used much in the fruit and veg sector. "You do see it a lot in flowers. For instance, all Flora Holland trolleys have an RFID tag. Inside and outside the auction, nearly 3 million flower trolleys are equipped with an RFID tag worldwide. It's an enormously powerful instrument to optimize logistics and to track and trace." He explains that introducing these tags in a closed circuit isn't a problem. "With an open or semi-open circuit, it gets more complicated. You can attach RFID tags to pallets, pallet boxes or plastic crates, but those often don't belong to a single owner in the fruit and veg sector. You'd then have to make the decision with the entire sector. Logistically speaking, it would be very interesting to introduce this. The fish and flower sectors have already arrived at this point, fruit and veg will undoubtedly take this step as well." One example of an organization from the fruit and veg sector that does use RFID tags, is Veiling Zaltbommel. Last year, they had this implemented for efficient management of their pallet boxes." (You can read more about it in this article)

The logistical process can also be mapped with real-time location tracking. "Combined with GPS, localization in the whole of Europe is possible. The weather can also be linked to the ERP or WMS system. There are other Aucxis clients that have RFID tagged their containers globally. The harvested vegetables are loaded into these, and on Google Maps they can see where these containers are and where they're headed."

For more information:
Patrick Catthoor
Aucxis cvba
Zavenstraat 40
9190 Stekene
T: +32-(0)3 790 1717
F: +32-(0)3 790 1718
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