RFID is increasingly a viable and cost-effective technology for the food industry. The high cost of items, their perishable nature, and the food safety needs for traceability are driving widespread adoption.
About RFID Technology:
RFID is an automatic identification technology, used for reliable and high-speed data capture.
Systems consists of readers, antennas, tags, and application software.
- RFID Tags are application specific, and second generation tags (“Gen2”) are small, reliable, and cost-effective.
- The food industry most commonly uses “passive” tags, which do not require a battery.
- Tags can be extremely durable for harsh environments, and optimized to work in and around metal (eg: stainless steel totes or aluminum trolleys)
- Tags are often combined with human-readable codes for redundancy
- RFID Readers, such as the Motorola FX9500 provide the intelligence to query tags and quickly retrieve the data that is recorded on them
- Mobile readers such as the Motorola MC9190Z and MC3190Z allow operators to point at tags to quickly read them
- RFID Antennas are application specific also, and are optimized to work in harsh environments, and to reliably target the RFID tags
- Software such as Carlisle Technology’s Symphony Plant Productivity and Traceability Suite matches the unique RFID identification number, and matches it against specific animals, bins of product, cartons, pallets, to extend traceability throughout the plant process.
How it works:
- Radio waves are sent from the RFID reader through antenna
- These Radio waves energize any RFID tags within range (the antennas are optimized to only target a desired area)
- The RFID tag reflects radio waves, adding its pre-programmed data to be sent to the RFID reader
While not yet realistic for use on every piece and carton, Carlisle Technology has implemented solutions that have immediate benefit such as:
- Animal Receiving: Reading ear tags of animals to determine the producer, lot#, and age (when integrated with a national animal registry)
- Animal Harvest (Trolley Tracking): RFID tags embedded in metal trolleys uniquely identify the animal as it moves through processing steps. This is used to attach information such as weights, grades, and health information
- Work-in-Process Tracking (WIP Tracking): RFID tags on re-usable bins provide a reliable and cost-effective method to identify ingredients and mixtures as they are used in production, so that they can be properly related to finished goods products.
- eg: tracking bacon through a smokehouse
- Process Control: RFID tags on re-usable bins can ensure that processes are followed correctly
- eg: bins are cleaned before being re-filled, ensuring that bins move to the next stage within an acceptable time. This functionality is available with Carlisle’s Symphony PTM Module (Process Traceability Manager)
- Inventory Control: Tracing of WIP inventory (including carcass inventory) at each stage of processing. Tracking of high-value finished goods is an emerging application
- eg: a pallet RFID tag can contain the serial numbers of all the cartons contained on that pallet
- Yield Visibility: Tracking movement of carcasses in and out of coolers for accurate cooler yield calculations