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Arizona Greenhouse Employs RFID to Track Workers' Tasks

With the use of tags and readers, Eurofresh Farms knows which plants have been tended or harvested by which workers, and can automatically provide that information to its payroll software.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 19, 2012Employees at tomato and cucumber producer Eurofresh Farms have increased their productivity by between 200 and 250 percent thanks to an RFID-based solution that helps the company track the exact amount of work performed by each staff member, and then compensate that individual accordingly. The system, provided by Priva, also enables the firm to track how many pounds of vegetables its plants produce, in addition to the amount of time it takes to care for them, and to compare that data with other plants and greenhouses. The Priva system links to time and payroll software provided by payroll and human-relations solutions company Empower Software Solutions, which calculates workers' paychecks.

Eurofresh Farms operates 318 acres of greenhouse facilities in Willcox and Snowflake, Ariz., and produces approximately 140 million pounds of tomatoes and cucumbers annually, without the use of pesticides. It has 5.5 million plants within its 15 greenhouses, as well as an army of workers who go over every row and prune or harvest the plants. Traditionally, each employee submits a report indicating how many rows he processed, and is then paid accordingly. However, it is often difficult for supervisors to verify those details, in order to determine exactly how much work was carried out by each staff member. In addition, some rows contain more plants than others, as well as different varieties, and the company is thus afforded little visibility into the care provided for each plant, or the effect that a certain plant variety might have on the amount of work time required.


The PrivAssistSmartline handheld reader

With RFID, that data becomes much more granular. For example, with the Priva software that integrates with the Empower time and payroll software, the company has stored data regarding each plant, including its variety, when it was planted and which services it has received. Therefore, if someone indicates that he has pruned all plants in row 12, for example, the software knows which plants were processed and how many are located in that row. In this way, the company can track not only workers' productivity (how many rows each employee tended during a given shift, as well as how long that person spent in each row), but also how long it took the staff, in general, to care for plants in specific rows, based on their location or variety.


Eurofresh Farms' Kevin Jensen
Upon arriving for a shift, a worker first picks up a PrivAssist Smartline handheld reader that the individual then carries throughout his shift. Priva's 125 kHz low-frequency (LF) passive RFID tags, complying with the ISO 11784/85 standard, have been mounted on a wall. The worker finds the tag with his name on it, and then taps the reader next to the tag in order to interrogate that tag ID, thereby indicating the start of his shift. A description of each task is also mounted on the wall, along with a passive RFID tag beneath each description. The employee selects the task he is about to undertake, such as pruning or harvesting, and uses the handheld to read the tag associated with that task. If pruning, the worker simply proceeds to the appropriate row. At the front of each row, another RFID tag is mounted, with a unique ID number that identifies that particular row, along with all plants within it. The staff member taps the row tag with his handheld, and the timestamp and row number are then stored on the reader. After moving on to another row, he next taps the tag for that row, and so forth. Once finished, the worker proceeds to a Priva upload terminal, where the collected data is transferred from the reader to the terminal, which forwards that information to the back-end system via a wired connection.

The Priva software links the individual's name, task and rows completed, and then transmits that data to the Empower software, which determines what that worker's payroll amount should be.

USER COMMENTS

Reader 2012-09-24 11:59:41 PM
Srinivasan Nice technology.... Really helpful for mass production industries....

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