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Lavazza Uses RFID to Track Packaging Materials, Boosting Efficiency

The coffee manufacturer employs EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags to automate the replenishment of packaging materials supplied by Goglio Cofibox, and used to create products Lavazza sells to consumers.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 15, 2009Italian coffee producer Lavazza and its packaging supplier, Goglio Cofibox, have implemented a radio frequency identification system that automates the replenishment of reels of packaging materials used to create Lavazza's products, and to improve those materials' traceability.

According to the two companies, the system—which employs EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags—enables just-in-time delivery of reels of printed packaging materials manufactured by Goglio Cofibox in Cadorago (near Como, Italy), and an automated process for receiving the reels at Lavazza's facility near Turin. The technology has reduced Lavazza's inventory of packaging, as well as the space required to store it, and provides the coffee company with real-time visibility of stock levels, says Fabio Marzorati, an industrial engineer at Goglio Cofibox who works in product development. Marzorati and Antonio Rizzi, the director of the University of Parma's RFID Lab, presented the Lavazza project results at October's RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2009 conference, held near Frankfurt, Germany. The RFID Lab, Rizzi says, engineered the solution and carried out tests to assess the technology's benefits.

After loading four reels of packaging materials onto a pallet, Goglio Cofibox attaches two adhesive EPC Gen 2 RFID labels onto the exterior of the plastic stretch wrap, as well as an extra tag directly on the pallet.
Lavazza converts the packaging materials into the bags that it then fills with coffee. The company is required by law to monitor the quality of packaging materials, in order to ensure that high-quality coffee is delivered to consumers. Because the materials have a limited shelf life, the company must use packaging on a first-in/first-out (FIFO) basis. Hence, it required a more efficient way than the manual system it previously utilized to trace the materials.

The RFID system that the companies implemented tracks pallets loaded with reels of packaging materials. During the project's initial testing phase, the partners also tracked individual reels of packaging for a particular coffee brand, Allegro. The purpose, the firms indicate, was to test item-level tracking. Each Allegro reel weighs 135 kilograms (297 pounds) and measures 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) in diameter. Four reels fit on a single pallet. The reels are used to package coffee after it is produced on the factory line.

Before RFID was implemented, Lavazza never knew the status of the orders it sent to Goglio Cofibox. Conversely, the packaging supplier never knew if Lavazza received the reels it delivered, or the number of reels the coffee producer had in inventory. In addition, orders had to be triggered manually every time Lavazza needed to replenish its stock of packaging materials.

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