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Metro Group Says New Tag Helped It Meet Its RFID Goals
The German retailer is using Avery Dennison's AD-843 tag to track pallets loaded with food products, providing nearly 100 percent read rate.
Jul 17, 2009—After two years of employing radio frequency identification to track some pallets of goods it ships to its supermarkets and wholesale food stores, Metro Group has fully deployed the system at all of its food markets in Germany, and at least 89 in France. The retailer is using what it describes as a new, more effective ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag: the AD-843, from Avery Dennison. The inlay was developed specifically for Metro Group, though it is now being marketed to other customers who ship pallets with loads that can make RFID reads difficult—such as products containing liquid, or those packaged in metal cans.
Metro Group first began utilizing the AD-843 in January 2009. Thus far, says Gerd Wolfram, managing director of MGI Metro Group Information Technology, the company's IT services division, the new tag gives the company nearly 100 percent read rates despite being attached to pallets loaded with goods containing metal and fluids.
The German retailer began applying UHF Gen 2 tags to its pallets two years ago, using tags and interrogators from a variety of vendors (see Metro Fleshes Out its RFID Plans). "Since 2007, we've seen the quality of Gen 2 tags increasing," Wolfram says. As a result, he adds, Metro Group has seen improved read rates for tags attached to pallets loaded with products that include metal and liquid. "We are pretty close to 100 percent."
Vendors ship pallets loaded with cases of food and other goods to nine Metro Group distribution centers (DCs) in Germany. Those products are then stored prior to being packed on new pallets and shipped to Metro Group's Cash & Carry wholesale stores and Real supermarkets. Typically, when one of Metro's DCs receives an order from a store, employees pick the requested cases of goods and place them on mixed pallets to be shipped to the site. Those mixed pallets are tagged with one AD-843 tag, which is then encoded with a unique ID number.
As the pallets are loaded onto trucks, Sirit or Intermec RFID interrogators capture their tag ID numbers—reading them even in instances where a tag is obstructed by cases of goods—and send those ID numbers, along with a date and time stamp, to software running on Metro Group's server. The software, designed and integrated by MGI Metro Group Information Technology, includes a database of pallet RFID tag ID numbers linked to the bar-code serial numbers of the products loaded on those pallets, enabling the software to interpret the RFID data and track when a pallet was shipped.
When the pallet arrives at one of the company's 400 retail locations—whether Metro Cash & Carry stores in Germany and France, or Metro Real supermarkets in Germany—Sirit, Impinj or Intermec RFID readers installed at those locations' receiving docks again capture the ID number on each pallet's tag. The software is then updated to show that the pallets were delivered to the specific retailer.
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