Make Manufacturing Sales With Rugged RFID
This VAR provides RFID
(radio frequency identification) technology to help manufacturers trace
products through harsh manufacturing processes.
CIPAM specializes in helping its customers implement methods of tracing products internally, particularly in the supply chain. For more than 13 years, it has provided bar code and RFID solutions that link data about raw materials and processes through product delivery, within the manufacturing processes of several industries. The company has witnessed the advantages of RFID in closed-loop supply chains since 1993, when it began using this technology in the automobile industry for Michelin Tires. Recently, CIPAM broadened the use of RFID tags and readers to food manufacturers, including a cheese maker that wanted to track grinding stones and for a ham producer that integrated RFID microchips into the ham bone itself.
Moet et Chandon, a champagne producer, approached CIPAM, along with other VARs, to study the use of RFID to improve its tracking processes and provide additional visibility and data collection in its supply chain. It sought to collect information about the location of products throughout the production process. Moet et Chandon also was interested in replacing the bar code labels on its bottle holders with a technology that did not require line of sight to be read and that could capture more data at each point in the supply chain. Christian Chretin, marketing manager at CIPAM, searched for the best RFID solution that would perform in the varying climates in the champagne production process at Moet et Chandon.
High-Capacity Tags Meet Manufacturer’s Needs
“The solution we proposed to Moet et Chandon included Texas Instruments’ HF [high-frequency] tag technology because these tags offer better resistance to the harsh environment of the manufacturing process and have high information capacity,” says Chretin. “We chose the ISO15693 13.56 MHz chip [with an ISO15693 reader/writer] due to its high speed of data transmission and storage capacity up to 2,000 bits.” The tags can handle temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as the damp, wet environment found in the champagne cellars.
The RFID tags affixed to the wooden containers used to transport the champagne bottles provide more precise identification and tracking within the production process than the bar codes. A single bar code tracked a group of 40,000 bottles in one batch; if a defect was found in the process, all 40,000 bottles needed to be examined for quality. Today, the batch size has been reduced to 500 bottles, with each batch being tracked by one RFID tag. If a defect is found now, only 500 bottles need to be examined.
Because the RFID tags are rewritable and never leave the company, this provides Moet et Chandon with a significant pricing advantage, as the RFID tags are reinitialized at the end of the manufacturing process and reused hundreds of times. The RFID tags are capable of holding 13 types of information to ensure the quality of the champagne, including date processed, fermentation code, and means of bottle filling. This is a greater capacity than the bar codes provided in the past.
CIPAM positioned RFID readers at several points throughout the production process, including at the end of the process where containers holding bottles are stored in tall, rolling racks. “For maintenance purposes, we provided the operators at each stage of the production process with portable readers, so information can be read and data can be added regarding each champagne bottle container. This allows all possible quality grades to be recorded,” says Chretin. The readers send information to Moet et Chandon’s primary production system, providing real-time inventory information and the immediate location and status of each bottle container.
CIPAM is investigating the use of UHF (ultra-high-frequency) RFID tags for use in other production lines at Moet et Chandon. The champagne producer is interested in using RFID in other processes, including theft protection. CIPAM also plans to market its RFID solutions to additional food processing industries, as well as continuing its work with manufacturers like Michelin.