Chewing gum maker in RFID trial

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rfid

One of the world’s leading chewing gum manufacturers is testing a new application of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in a bid to...

One of the world’s leading chewing gum manufacturers is testing a new application of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in a bid to increase efficiency in its European factories.

A second application involving RFID and temperature monitoring was also being considered, revealed Andris Berzins, European md at active RFID expert AeroScout.

Gum manufacturing was highly automated, from melting to mixing, rolling, scoring, cooling, breaking, coating and wrapping, said Berzins. However, waste and errors crept in because of the difficulty of maintaining visibility of inventory in the latter stages of the process. “They have got pallets with gum and hand-written labels all over the place. They need to know exactly what is on each pallet, how long it has been there, when the product needs breaking and packaging after cooling and where it is supposed to be, when. When you have mobile inventory, you need a more sophisticated means of tracking it.”

By attaching active RFID tags to the pallets containing the gum, bosses had far better visibility, said Berzins. “This helps them ensure that the right products are in the right place at the right time. It also has a direct impact on quality as gum should not be sitting on a pallet for too long, and if you know how long it’s been there, you know exactly when each pallet needs shifting.”

Details of the implementation would be made public shortly, said Berzins, who claimed to be talking to several food and drink firms about using RFID for asset-tracking. In the case of the gum manufacturer, the payback came in “a matter of months”.

He added: “There are lots of cases in manufacturing where productivity is impacted because of a lack of visibility to the location and status of inventory, assets and even people. In these environments, not knowing the location of critical assets, or being unable to locate the next piece of work-in-progress inventory, can mean lead to costly downtime.”

AeroScout supplies re-usable, reprogrammable battery-powered active RFID tags that actively transmit to readers, unlike disposable ‘passive’ tags, which are more like barcodes.

The tags ‘talk’ to Wi-Fi wireless networks that many companies already have installed, explained AeroScout director of marketing Josh Slobin. “We effectively piggyback off standard wireless networks. Customers’ wireless access points act like RFID readers, picking up transmissions from our tags and other Wi-Fi devices without interrupting normal operations.”

The return on investment typically came through increased plant productivity, reduced downtime, better visibility, reduced direct labour costs, reduced shrinkage and better asset management, claimed Slobin.

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