Tracking pallet transport – Interview with Holger Heckmann, Ahrma

Tracking pallet transport – Interview with Holger Heckmann, Ahrma

Holger Heckmann, business development director and experienced in returnable asset management, business and product development & Internet of Things solutions for the logistic industry for Ahrma Pooling, will talk about the latest tracking devices for pallets and other freight handling items on June 14, at the Cargo Innovation Conference in Venlo.

Ahrma Holding BV was founded in 2014. Headquarters and the production plant are located in Deventer, The Netherlands. On short notice Ahrma will open affiliate regional offices in three countries worldwide, serving clients’ logistics in the industrial food, beverage, pharmaceutical and retail industries.

Smart platform

It’s Ahrma’s vision to increase and improve the total visibility in the supply chain. Ahrma is doing this through a completely new smart pallet platform concept for the logistics market. Using an active wireless transponder that is integrated in new innovative hybrid wood/plastic pallets, and together with track & trace software from Ahrma, it will be possible to record not just the position and movement of the pallets, but also their ambient temperature, load state and any possible impact or dropping of the pallets.

Key requirements for this platform are:

  • Low cost transponders
  • Low cost IT infrastructure (gateways and mobile apps)
  • Battery life > 10 years
  • Worldwide operation and so on……

As well making use of the most modern communication infrastructures so as to be able give all the required info on the pallet as well the cargo on it. “For instance we have a customer in the USA who is tracking his wine transports. They may not travel longer than 30 hours, and not by temperatures more than 30 degrees Centigrade. If they see that the temperature has been to high, the whole shipment is sent back,” Holger Heckmann explains.


Based on these requirements Ahrma selected a 2.4Ghz technology for it’s active Radio Frequency Identification Tag (RFID) transponder platform. The basic technology is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). However, this technology in itself is not good enough for this application: its range is too limited (30 meter) and also it is not a good solution for high volume implementations (>10k active transponders in a warehouse). To solve this Ahrma added the following innovations to the standard BLE solution:

  • 1)  A best in class radio frequency (RF) layout and antenna design which increases the range to 300 meter (open field) and around 80 meter (inside).
  • 2)  A proprietary ‘protocol layer’ which avoids radio collisions in big scale implementations.

The basic transponder contains a wireless radio, a motion sensor as well as a temperature sensor. The transponder transmits (or pings) with a frequency of once per minute when in motion and once per hour when not in motion. This ping time is programmable and the transponders can be programmed ‘over the air’. The transponder is mounted in its own jacket inside the middle block of the pallet which Ahrma has designed.

The transponders will have a non-volatile buffer memory and will store all recorded data with a time stamp of the measurement if the asset is not in range of a gateway. The basic gateway can be connected via a regular Ethernet cable to an existing IT infrastructure. The gateway also supports Power over Ethernet for easy installation. The gateway can optionally be equipped with WiFi for a wireless connection to an existing WiFi network
and a 3G/4G modem for a direct communication link towards the internet. Ahrma also makes available Apps for smart-phones which also behave as gateways. With the same App a customer can signal a pallet as damaged and can even include a picture of the damage.

Cloud Service

“The transponder infrastructure is transmitting data to a Microsoft Azure based cloud service. Ahrma did develop a full asset management dashboard inside this cloud, which will be used internally for managing the Ahrma asset pools, but will also be disclosed towards customers in order for them to manage and operate their own assets. A rich Application Programming Interface (API) is also available in order to link the Ahrma data to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems of it’s customers. Big data tools & analytics will be available in order to enhance logistics processes and optimize pallets pools. This way we serve our customers the best way possible and it provides them with the utmost modern technology,” concludes mr. Heckmann.

For more information and registration to the Cargo Innovation Conference, we invite you to visit

The interview was made by Jakajima, the organiser of the conference. For more interviews with speakers at Jakajima conferences, we invite you to visit Jakajima’s website

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