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Is RFID Being Used to Track Cigarettes?
Are there any RFID implementation case studies in the tobacco industry?
Yes—and we have reported on several of them.
Indian cigarette manufacturer ITC markets several cigarette brands. To ensure the quality of its products, the company monitors the tobacco's moisture content at each stage of production. To do this, workers at the firm's Calcutta plant had to weigh tobacco samples and manually mark paper tickets accompanying those samples during processing. ITC has deployed an RFID system to streamline the moisture-monitoring operation. As a result, it has reduced operator man-hours on the production floor by 40 percent (see RFID Snuffs Out Inefficiencies at Tobacco Plant).
Philip Morris International (PMI), an Altria Group division that sells tobacco products in all parts of the world except the United States, has designed track-and-trace and authentication systems using serialized, linear and 2-D bar codes designed to fight product counterfeiting and contraband. The company hopes to extend these technologies so it can leverage the Electronic Product Code (EPC) network managed by EPCglobal, and plans to work with the nonprofit standards organization to make this goal a reality (see Philip Morris Intl. Seeks to Make Serialized Bar Codes Work With EPC Network).
Japan is instituting an RFID age-verification system to prevent underage kids from buying cigarettes at vending machines. The system uses RFID-enabled IDs to ensure that children are unable to purchase cigarettes from vending machines (see Smoke Signals).
I'm also aware of a tobacco company that had an issue with employees occasionally putting the wrong raw materials into a machine that dumped them into a mixing vat. Each time this happened, it cost the company $1 million, because the line had to be shut down. The firm deployed an RFID system that identified the materials, checked them against what should be put in the vat and locked up the machine if the wrong materials were put into it. That eliminated manufacturing errors.
—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal
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