HOW IS RFID USED IN FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY?
In general terms, identification technologies have led to a better handling of raw materials and finished products in the whole food industry, from suppliers to distribution and this assures better quality and freshness of the products.
RFID more than barcodes has boosted this “better handling”, thanks to the well-known benefits of this technology: identification from a distance, no need of a line of sight, multiple reading at a time, reduced human assistance, the chance to add additional data and so on.
In today’s food and beverage industry RFID technology is then mainly used to optimize supply chain management, for temperature monitoring and food safety.
SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
In supply chain management, RFID tags are used to track food products during distribution and storage. Tagging products from suppliers to distribution centers and to stores facilitates automated product shipments and helps to maintain an accurate database of each store inventory that automatically can alert the warehouse management system when stocks fall below a certain threshold.
The option to write and add information to RFID tags allows the tracing of temperature measurements: the tag senses temperature and integrates it over time to determine the shelf life of a product, which can be communicated to a reader.
With products such as meat, fruit and dairy products, monitoring food temperature ensures to consumers that they are buying safe and quality products and helps business owners along the supply chain to control and constantly improve their services, according to the information acquired.
RFID helps to identify products of the food systems (whether products, boxes, trays, pallets, containers or food packages) and provide transparency about sources and handling procedures: type, origin, quantity, temperature, humidity, expiration date, lot number, weights and all that regards the product’s history.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DRIVERS OF RFID ADOPTION IN FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY?
Automation: to improve communication along the supply chain and promote a seamless flow of food with greater precision, above all when cold environments are needed.
Regulations on food traceability: to be compliant RFID can help tracking products in real-time thus ensuring food safety and reducing time and costs of recalling products, in case of problems.
Customer service: thanks to data gathering along the supply chain, food companies can show their consumers the entire history of the processed products or food they provide to retail, and this can be an advantage for them as consumers become more aware and concerned about the food they buy.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS?
In the food industry RFID technology will provide benefits such as greater speed and efficiency in stock operations, better inventory tracking throughout the supply chain, and enhanced forecasting.
Use of RFID technology can improve the efficiency and productivity by reducing out-of-stock supplies and spoilage of food products, repetitive and routine tasks or human errors.
Integration of RFID tags with sensors can provide food processors a means to monitor the temperature or quality of food products.
WHAT ABOUT MAIN CHALLENGES?
Some of the concerns of adopting RFID in the food industry are common to other industries, such as the technical issue of tags on products with large amounts of liquid or metals that cannot be read easily because liquids absorb signals while metals reflect them.
Others are specific challenges of this industry and refers to the cost of tags and RFID systems implementation that makes it uneconomical to incorporate tags into every retail item (above all in comparison to barcode use).
The RFID tags can affect the process of recycling for paper, glass, plastic, and metal: adhesives, pieces of metal from antennas, and conductive inks of an RFID tag can interfere or contaminate materials: the impact can be minimized using alternative adhesives, different metal for antenna, or green tags.
Here is where the Inventag Team could help: to face and overcome these challenges by selecting the best technology according to business needs.
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