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Nestlé Italy Finds RFID Brings ROI for Ice Cream
The company expects to see a range of benefits from using RFID tags with built-in sensors to verify ice cream is stored and transported at temperatures neither too cold nor too warm.
When a large truck carrying a sensor approached the production plant, the reader picked up the signal from the active tag inside cold storage at the production plant. The tag can transmit data up to 200 meters away indoors, and farther outside. The interrogator at the distribution center collected time and temperature readings—taken as goods were moved between sites—from the tag mounted within the truck. Each sensor tag carries a unique ID number (associated—in a database—with the freezer, dock, storage area or truck to which the tag is attached) and logs the temperature data and time the temperature was taken. No further information is recorded.
The final reading occurred when small trucks, also equipped with readers, approached shops and collected data from tags mounted within the shops' freezers. When the truck returned to the depot, all data saved on the truck's reader was collected by another interrogator, which then transferred that data to a database. "That's the big innovation," Marasi says regarding the automatic collection and transfer of field data to the database.
The RFID sensor tags transmit at a frequency of 868 MHz, using a custom air-interface protocol that minimizes the tags' battery use to allow for three or more years of battery life. The tags can function at temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius (-31 degrees Fahrenheit).
Nestlé Italy has invested about €40,000 ($63,400) in the pilot, and says the system provides a wide variety of benefits. For one thing, quality control experts in R&D can use time-temperature readings to support their research. "The RFID system, in essence, provides these experts with a laboratory in the field," Marasi says, "to determine the effect of temperature changes on the product."
In addition, the use of RFID time-temperature sensors can be a way to reinforce the high value and quality of the brand to consumers. What's more, Nestlé can reduce the cost of maintaining its large number of freezers through timely repairs and punctual maintenance, based on the freezers' temperature readings. It can also track freezers more easily—and because spoilage will be reduced, the company could possibly save money by potentially lowering the cost of insurance that partners carry to cover themselves if goods are damaged during delivery.
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