Groundbreaking Study Confirms RFID Can Track Reusable Containers

The Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) has released the results of an independent study that tested the use of RFID tags to track reusable containers making multiple turns. The development was first reported by MHM.

The study involved extensive field trials lasting more than a year. Tests were supported by RPA members and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Frontera Produce, Stemilt, Tanimura and Antle, Georgia-Pacific, IFCO Systems, Orbis, Alien Technology, Avery Dennison, Impinj, UPM Raflatac, Michigan State University School of Packaging, the Kennedy Group, California State Polytechnic University, QLM Consulting and the RPA.

Two phases of laboratory testing at Michigan State University School of Packaging evaluated 230 reusable containers with nine different EPC-compliant, Gen 2 RFID tags. A California State Polytechnic scientist at a second laboratory conducted readability tests, and third-party advisors verified results. The project team performed more than 160 hours of testing and more than 14,000 tests. The three tags that performed optimally during the testing were used in the field trial.

During the field trial, produce was packed in reusable plastic containers directly in the field under various conditions. The produce was then sent to cooling facilities where product temperatures were dropped to ensure freshness and transportability. Next, the product was loaded onto trucks and other containers for shipment to customers.

During field testing, the RFID tags underwent extreme changes in temperature, from more than 100°F in the field to 32°F in cold storage and more than 170°F in the sanitation cycle. The tags were also exposed to dry field conditions, wet and cold storage environments, warehousing, store racking and hand delivery to store shelves.

Each RFID tag was transported an average of more than 1,000 miles before being unloaded at a distribution center, reloaded onto trucks for delivery to stores, redelivered back for sanitation and finally redeployed to the produce company for reuse.

The key finding of the study, according to RPA, is that RFID tags designed for single use can be used for multiple trips without any deterioration in performance if positioned correctly on reusable containers.

The complete study is available to RPA members. MHM will also report more details as they become available.

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