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RFID Helps Resort Digitize and Manage Its Wine Collection

The Tokyo Baycourt Club is tracking thousands of bottles of wine, served in multiple restaurants and guest services, via a UHF RFID system from SATO Material Co.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 10, 2018

The Tokyo Baycourt Club, a resort with four restaurants, each served by a stocked wine cellar, has improved its wine inventory accuracy and reduced stock-counting time by about 88 percent, thanks to an RFID-based inventory-management system. The solution, provided by SATO Corp., has helped the resort to digitize its inventory of thousands of bottles of wine, and to bring the inventory-counting process down to a matter of hours.

The Tokyo Baycourt Club, owned and operated by Resorttrust, is located in Tokyo's Odaiba area. It features 292 guest rooms and four restaurants, serving Japanese, French, Italian and Chinese cuisines. The resort also features a bar, a lounge, a convention hall and room service, all of which serve wine from the resort's wine cellar and refrigerators. Altogether, the resort manages an inventory of approximately 5,000 bottles of wine. Managing the wine was a laborious process that involved visually counting and checking inventory levels against paper forms. Finding a particular bottle of wine when a guest requested it could be a time-consuming process.

To reduce labor costs and the potential for errors, the resort began seeking a technology-based solution. "I wanted to reduce the workload with the goal of utilizing limited human resources for more productive operations," says Katsuhiko Aihara, the Tokyo Baycourt Club's beverages head. Ultimately, he says, his goal was to improve service and sales.

After some investigation, Aihara says, the resort's management decided that RFID "was the best way to comprehensively solve our issues." It found that SATO was the only solution provider able to deliver a complete solution, including RFID tags, readers and integrated software.

Katsuhiko Aihara
The resort had some requirements when it came to how the RFID solution could be deployed, however. Tags could not be permanently attached to the bottles—since a label affixed to each bottle, cork or lid could affect the wine's appearance or quality—and the tags needed to be readable when stacked in the cellar or in coolers. The resort began working with SATO to come up with an RFID-based solution in October 2016, then began testing the technology in November of last year. Following the pilot, the system was taken live in January 2018.

The solution posed several unique technical challenge for SATO, one of which was the reliability of interrogating tags on wine bottles. "Liquids and metals greatly affect read rates for UHF RFID tags," explains Shinya Nitta, SATO Material's president. Additionally, the metal-sealing foil on wine corks poses another potential RF transmission block. "The effect is amplified," he notes, "with wines closely packing into a wine cellar."

To overcome these challenges, SATO visited the site to view the resort's operations, including how the bottles were stored and how employees would typically hold the reader when conducting inventory counts. SATO eventually opted to develop a custom tag. "We devised a technology to counter the effect of the liquid and sealing foil that could be attached to the [bottles] with a metallic jig," Nitta states. After experimenting with tag placement, the company was able to achieve stable read rates.

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