Major RFID Study Underway

Nov. 1, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C.-The largest and most widely-supportedindustry field test of RFID technology on reusable transport packaging is underway, according to

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The largest and most widely-supportedindustry field test of RFID technology on reusable transport packaging is underway, according to the Reusable Pallet & Container Coalition (RPCC).

The groundbreaking study is supported by a broad group ofRPCC members and industry leaders that collectively represent every facet ofthe supply chain. The participants include Tanimura and Antle, Stemilt,Wal-Mart, Frontera, The Kennedy Group, Avery Dennison, Alien, UPM Raflatac,Impinj, IFCO Systems, Georgia-Pacific, and ORBIS.

Currently, thousands of reusable containers with affixedRFID tags are being tested throughout the supply chain, from the wet and coldconditions of growers' fields, to the rugged and repeated handling ofdistribution centers, and on to the retail environment. This large scale fieldtrial comes on the heels of rigorous laboratory testing at Michigan StateUniversity School of Packaging.

"There has never been an RFID-related field trial ofthis magnitude in the United States with so many key supply chainpartners," said Fred Heptinstall, IFCO Systems, and RPCC president."The level of cooperation within the industry is truly remarkable. And ifthe field trial results mirror the data from the laboratory testing, we will proveunequivocally that reusables are the enabler to the cost-effective use of RFIDtechnology."

During the laboratory trial, 230 reusable containers withnine different EPC-compliant, Gen 2 RFID tags were vigorously tested atMichigan State University School of Packaging. Moreover, readability tests wereconducted by a CalPoly scientist at a second laboratory and results wereverified by third-party advisors. The project team performed more than 160hours of testing and more than 14,000 tests. The containers were subjected tosinusoidal vibration and drop tests on all edges as well as repeated cleaningand handling.

In addition to proving durability, the data demonstratedthat it is possible to get 100% read rates 100% of the time, which has neverbeen achieved in the industry. The three tags that performed optimally duringthe testing are currently being used in the field trial.

"The durability and readability of the RFID tagsduring the lab tests were superb," said Pat Kennedy of The Kennedy Group,and the RPCC Project Leader. "The information gathered from these studieswill help businesses make data-driven decisions about the cost effectivenessand feasibility of incorporating reusable containers into their supply chainsfrom an enhanced track and trace perspective."

In the field trial that is currently under way, thereusable containers with the multi-cycle RFID tags are being used in growers'fields in Washington and California.

From there, produce in the containers is shipped toWal-Mart distribution centers, where the produce is cleaned and the containersand tags are subject to washing, further handling, refrigeration and storagebefore being sent to retail stores.

Eventually, the containers are collapsed and sent backthrough the supply chain for further cleaning, handling, and storage. Eachcontainer is going through a minimum of three cycles of use.

At the end of each cycle, the RFID tags are being testedfor viability, then re-encoded for the next cycle. The six-month field trial isexpected to end in spring 2008.

Because perishables are shipped under the most demandingconditions, a successful field test with perishables will provide convincingevidence of the feasibility of using RFID technology with reusable transportpackaging in a wide range of other industries.

Upon completion of the field trial, the RPCC will developan economic model for integrating RFID tags with reusable transport packaging.Quality Logistics Management (QLM), an EPCglobal-certified Solutions Provider,will collect and analyze the data, and present an industry white paper with theresults.