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Smart Bottles Reduce Glass Breakage

Glass container maker Ardagh Glass, as well as Coca-Cola, Coors and other beverage companies, are using facsimile bottles with built-in active RFID tags and sensors to identify sites on assembly lines that subject the glass to damaging pressure or collisions.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 29, 2008With an eye on reducing glass waste and decreasing the amount of fuel consumed to transport glass products, British nonprofit organization Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has developed a program intended to encourage glass bottle manufacturers, as well as food and beverage companies, to lighten the load.

WRAP's efforts have spurred the U.K. glass industry to produce new, lighter-weight glass bottles for holding everything from wine to coffee. But the manufacturing, bottling and transportation processes were designed for heavier, sturdier receptacles, and are not always appropriate for this new, more sustainable design. With lighter glass, the risk of breakage increases in factories at which bottles are made, as well as in the plants where beverages are bottled, and in the trucks that transport those containers, whether empty or filled.

An Agent QC facsimile bottle with a built-in RFID tag and sensors.
To identify areas of the bottle factory in which glass is at risk of breakage, as well as to improve line performance and quality control as it manufactures the bottles, Irish glass manufacturer Ardagh Glass is using Agent QC, an RFID-based system provided by Sensor Wireless. By locating the sources of such problems as excessive pressure or collisions between bottles and machinery or other bottles, Ardagh can reduce the cost of losing products, as well as the strain on landfills resulting from broken glass.

The Agent QC system includes smart bottles—facsimiles containing built-in RFID tags with sensors. By placing a smart bottle on the assembly line, the company can identify the exact point in the process at which real glass containers would likely be damaged, according to Wayd McNally, Sensor Wireless' president and CEO.

The system also comes with a handheld RFID interrogator that Ardagh employees can use to capture data from a smart bottle as it passes through the manufacturing line, along with software to interpret that information. In addition, the Agent QC system is being utilized by beverage companies, including Coors, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Coca-Cola and Kirin Beer, to track the pressure applied by factory machinery to the bottles as caps are attached.

Ardagh Glass, one of the largest glass manufacturers worldwide, produces 12 billion glass containers annually, and employs 6,500 people in 20 manufacturing facilities across Europe. With the inclusion of a lighter-weight product, says Paul O'Neill, Ardagh Glass' senior customer service executive for the food, dairy and soft drinks sector, the company has now used the Agent QC system to track the manufacturing process of four new bottles it is providing to major companies. O'Neill declined to name those clients.

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