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RFID Snuffs Out Inefficiencies at Tobacco Plant

At its cigarette factory in Calcutta, ITC passive RFID tags help monitor tobacco moisture content at each stage of production.
By Claire Swedberg
Employees take each sample-filled plastic container to one of three workstations containing a scale wired to an RFID interrogator custom-built by TCS. The plastic container is placed on the scale, which is located beneath an interrogator antenna, while an empty ovenproof, tagged metal container is positioned beneath a separate antenna. The reader captures the ID number on the plastic container's RFID tag, as well as its weight, then encodes that data to the metal container's RFID label, which has already been encoded with that container's tare weight (its weight when empty). The tobacco is then transferred from the plastic container to the metal container, which is weighed before being put in an oven along with the batch of tobacco from which the sample was taken.

After four hours in the oven at 110 degrees Celsius, the sample-filled container, along with the rest of the tobacco, is removed, and the container is weighed once more. Its new weight is encoded onto the RFID tag, and the interrogator captures all data stored on the tag. That information is then uploaded via a cabled connection to the company's back-end system so ITC can evaluate the results.

"The RFID system has changed the way sample data are recorded and moved with the samples," says Ghosh. "It has not only enabled ITC to discard the paper dockets, but has also benefited by saving the operator's samples-collection time."

According to Dash, greater accuracy has been another benefit since the system eliminates the need for manual writing and data entry. "The implementation of the RFID system has made operations more reliable and functionally robust," he says, bringing about what he calls "a paradigm shift in striving for process efficiency."

Training production workers was managed easily, Dash says, who notes, "The quality team of ITC went through a smooth and structured process of induction into using RFID systems. The hands-on training imparted to them from the beginning has helped the team in executing their day-to-day operation of the systems effectively."

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