Home Internet of Things Aerospace Apparel Energy Defense Health Care Logistics Manufacturing Retail

Carlsberg UK Expands RFID Keg-Tracking System

The beer and cider brewer expects to tag a total of 600,000 kegs, using RFID to create a record of which empty kegs are onsite, which have been filled and shipped, and how long they remain at a customer's site.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 05, 2014

Brewing company Carlsberg UK is expanding its RFID-based solution that captures and manages data related to the movements of its Somersby Cider kegs, to include a percentage of all the beer kegs it sends to, and receives from, distributors and customers. The system is provided by Kegspertise, a West Yorkshire, England, business that provides tracking services for kegs and casks.

Throughout the past year, the brewer has been filling kegs—approximately 80,000 altogether—of its new cider product at its Northampton location, and then tracking them via radio frequency identification. Based on the results of that installation, the company is now rolling the system out to include all new kegs purchased for containerizing beer, while also retrofitting its existing beer keg inventory with EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags.

Each Carlsberg UK keg is being fitted with an HID Global Inline Tag Ultra Curve passive EPC Gen RFID tag.
Managing reusable kegs poses a challenge for brewers. The metal containers are typically valued at around $100 or more apiece, and tens or hundreds of thousands can be in the supply chain at any given time—either being shipped to or from a customer, or in use at a customer's place of business. Because the kegs belong to the brewer, they should be returned there when empty, but in many cases, they do not make it back, and the brewer is unable to trace them. Therefore, the company simply purchases additional kegs—and thus often ends up with excess inventory—in order to cover seasonal fluctuation in demand, and to ensure that it never runs out when a new order comes in.

In 2002, a company called TrenStar offered a solution by purchasing beer kegs from brewers and managing the kegs via RFID, thereby providing a keg-management service to beer manufacturers (see TrenStar: RFID With Less Risk). TrenStar, which had initially envisioned providing services for the largest U.K. brewers, left the British market in 2007. In August 2008, an RFID software company called Fluensee—now known as TrackX—acquired TrenStar and began providing keg-tracking services, though not to U.K. clients (see Fluensee Purchases TrenStar).

The TrenStar solution employed passive low-frequency (LF) RFID tags, which had a short read range and thus required that each keg be scanned, one at a time, with fixed readers positioned on the filling lines, or via handheld readers. When TrenStar left the British market, U.K. brewers needed to find an alternate solution. "When TrenStar left the marketplace, it took skills the brewers had counted on," says Andy Dorr, Kegspertise's managing director and TrenStar's former senior quality-assurance manager. Dorr is also chairman of the Keg and Cask Committee within the United Kingdom's Brewing, Food & Beverage Industry Suppliers Association.

With the Kegspertise solution, brewers retain ownership of the kegs, and collect and manage information about those kegs themselves. Kegspertise provides the necessary software and hardware to enable this arrangement, using the technology to which the brewers are already accustomed: RFID. However, because it utilizes UHF RFID technology, the Kegspertise system allows users to read the tags from a greater distance, and in large volume. Users can employ a handheld, for example, to interrogate tags within a full trailer, or utilize fixed readers installed at vehicle entranceways, to automatically capture the ID number of each tagged keg as it passes through a portal. With a handheld or fixed reader, it is possible to read all of the tags aboard a vehicle loaded with up to 840 kegs.

Kegspertise began working with its first adopter, Carlsberg UK, early last year. At that time, Carlsberg UK was launching a Somersby Cider—a hard cider that bars and restaurants sell by the glass. Since the company was purchasing a new fleet of kegs for the cider, its managers opted to have the keg manufacturer simultaneously mount an HID Global Inline Tag Ultra Curve RFID tag to the top of each keg, so that the firm could begin using the technology in a limited way (on cider only), rather than immediately installing a solution for its many beer kegs. The cider within each keg has a shelf-life of about 12 months, meaning that the cider's cycle time is longer than that of beer. So now, more than a year since the kegs were being shipped out, the brewer is beginning to retrieve complete cycle data regarding kegs that were shipped out and returned empty.

Login and post your comment!

Not a member?

Signup for an account now to access all of the features of RFIDJournal.com!

Case Studies Features Best Practices How-Tos
Live Events Virtual Events Webinars
Simply enter a question for our experts.
RFID Journal LIVE! RFID in Health Care LIVE! LatAm LIVE! Brasil LIVE! Europe RFID Connect Virtual Events RFID Journal Awards Webinars Presentations