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Parma's RFID Lab Extends Logistics Pilot to the Manufacturer

For its third logistics pilot, the University of Parma laboratory is tracking perishable food from the manufacturer's warehouse to the retailer's point of sale.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 29, 2012The University of Parma's RFID Lab launched a pilot last month that aims to assess the value of RFID-based data in reducing the incidence of perishable product shrinkage due to expiration, by using radio frequency identification tags from the point of manufacture to the trash compactors utilized at stores after products are put out on the sales floor. Participants—currently just a single manufacturer, Danone, and a lone retailer, Auchan—can share the cloud-based server data. The project is the third, and possibly final, in a series of RFID logistics pilots conducted by the university's RFID Lab under the leadership of Antonio Rizzi, the lab's founder and project coordinator, who is also a professor of industrial logistics and supply chain management. Unlike the RFID Lab's previous two RFID logistics pilots, the goal of the current project is to transition into permanent deployments.

The present project follows RFID Logistics Pilot II, held in 2011, which included retailers Auchan, Coop Italia and Conad, as well as manufacturers Danone, Lavazza, Nestlé, Parmacotto and Parmalat. During Pilot II, approximately 70 different types of perishable goods were tracked, using passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tags applied to cases, from each retailer's distribution center to the store. According to Rizzi, the pilot found that by reducing the quantity of spoiled or expired products, the retailers were able to increase the sales of fresh food products by 1.75 percent (see Italian Study Shows How RFID Can Help Reduce Supermarket Overstocks).

This latest pilot continues on that model, Rizzi says, but also includes the application of RFID tags by the product manufacturer, Danone, which is attaching RFID labels made with Smartrac DogBone EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags to cases of its yogurt products within its own warehouse. The tags are then tracked through Auchan's DC, to three of its stores and finally at the trash compactor as the empty boxes are destroyed, thereby indicating that the goods were sold.

While Pilot II tracked approximately 30,000 cases, Rizzi notes, Pilot III will include about twice that number during its first phase, and will track 110 different product types. Danone expects to tag approximately 60,000 cases for the three stores over the course of five months. The first phase of the third pilot commenced in October 2012, and is expected to continue until spring 2013, at which time—assuming the technology works well—additional manufacturers and retailers may opt to join for the launch of the second, larger phase.

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