Benefits of RFID Tracking for Food

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By mid-July in 2020, more than 30 million pounds of plums had been shipped in the United States—2.4 million pounds more than the same period last year. Each plum can be damaged by impacts as it transits from the orchard to the grocer or food product producer. Bruising and tears reduce a plum’s shelf life and the price it can command.

That risk is shared by tomatoes, strawberries, pears, and other soft fruits as well as by foods considered less susceptible to damage, such as cabbage, lettuce, and even seeds and dried beans. Research in Food Science & Nutrition, for example, describes how shipping impacts damage lentil seeds, causing them to break open.

Shipping damage clearly contributes to food wastage. In the U.S. alone, approximately 69 million metric tons of food is wasted before it reached consumers. In fact, research suggests that distribution and retail losses in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand account for 12% of the fruit and 2% of the grain products lost each year. For seafood and meats, the figures are 9.5% and 4%, respectively.

Including RFID impact tags in food shipments can help minimize damage during shipping. The food industry championed RFID logistics trackers early on and remains one of the largest markets for smart packaging technologies. Such wide usage means logistics managers can deploy them on food shipments, knowing they can be integrated easily and seamlessly into any enterprise resource planning system that uses passive RFID.

RFID trackers and condition monitors are a modern, cost-effective alternative to barcodes. In 1974, when barcodes were first used, they offered one of the first electronic ways to track cargo. More than 40 years later, they have been outpaced by the capabilities of RFID tags.

There are many advantages to RFID tracking:

  • Flexible Scanning. RFID scanners automatically read multiple tags simultaneously from any orientation, thus streamlining logistics documentation. Barcodes, conversely, must be scanned manually, one at a time.
  • Automated Accuracy. Because passive RFID scanners read RFID tags whenever they are in range—entering or leaving a loading dock or cold chain storage area, for instance—you know your shipment’s exact location. Barcodes, in contrast, require manual, item-by-item scanning and run the risk of introducing human error.
  • Readability. RFID tags are read digitally, eliminating the challenge of defaced, missing, or otherwise illegible barcodes.
  • Condition Recording. ShockWatch RFID tags, unlike bar codes, record potentially damaging impacts based upon your choice of impact thresholds in addition to recording the cargo’s location.
  • Accountability. Passive RFID tag scanning ensures the shipment’s location and condition is recorded at each handoff. Therefore, you know if and where any potentially damaging impacts occurred and can hold the right parties accountable. Barcodes, in contrast, lack damage incident information.

By providing almost immediate visibility into the supply chain, SpotSee’s ShockWatch RFID tags help you respond immediately to changes in the conditions of your food cargo. For example, you might reroute potentially damaged produce to optimize viable shelf-life or re-inspect (regrade) produce to ensure it meets customers’ specifications. Linking damage trends to certain foods, packaging, lanes, routes, or carriers helps you identify the root cause of problems so they don’t occur again.

RFID tags are common supply chain tools that are easy to use and easy to integrate into existing RFID enterprise resource planning systems. Today, they are an integral part of smart supply chains, especially for foods, where they enhance foods tracking. With RFID tags, foods can be traced at every step of their journey from the field to the grocer or food manufacturer.

To learn how ShockWatch RFID can help you improve your food product supply chain, contact SpotSee.

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