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Arizona Greenhouse Employs RFID to Track Workers' Tasks

With the use of tags and readers, Eurofresh Farms knows which plants have been tended or harvested by which workers, and can automatically provide that information to its payroll software.
By Claire Swedberg
If the employee is harvesting cucumbers or tomatoes, the process is slightly different. The worker uses the handheld reader to tap his own ID tag on the wall at the beginning of the shift, as well as the task tag, and then obtains a cart on which the produce will be loaded. The cart has an RFID tag on it, and the employee taps the tag with the reader to link himself to that cart. Once the cart is full, he moves it to a weighing station, which has a built-in Priva RFID interrogator that reads the tag when the cart is placed on the scale. That information is sent directly from the fixed reader to the back-end Priva software, which stores a record of the individual using that cart. The data is then forwarded once more to the Empower system, in order to calculate how much to pay that individual for the work performed, based on the weight of the produce harvested.


Priva's passive 125 kHz passive RFID tag
According to Jensen, after Eurofresh installed the system in four of its 15 greenhouses, the workers' productivity has at least doubled. While staff members had previously been able to prune an average of eight rows per person per shift, that average is now 14 to 20 rows. That increase, says Kevin Jensen, Eurofresh Farms' director of information technology, is due to the improved information now available. With the new system in place, he says, workers are paid for the exact amount of work performed, thereby providing an incentive for them to work harder. For the staff, that means their paychecks are larger, while for Eurofresh, it means the company does not need to hire as many workers.

Moreover, the data derived from the system enables the company to better record how each plant is managed, as well as when a specific variety of plant is not doing well or requires excessive amounts of time to be cared for or harvested. Now that the company knows exactly how many pounds of product are being harvested from specific rows, supervisors need not spend as much time counting and verifying the quantity of rows in which staff members worked, and can now focus on quality—for example, determining the health of plants processed by workers. For customers, Jensen says, it means a higher quality product.

Jensen expects to install the RFID system at all 15 greenhouses by the end of 2013. This is the first time Empower has integrated its time and payroll software with Priva's system, he says, though it has utilized RFID data for its software packages. "We're thrilled it's working for Eurofresh, and we think this is something other companies will be leveraging in the future," says Yvonne Fong, Empower's product manager.

"Having an interface into our existing payroll software was absolutely critical," Jensen states. That was possible, Fong notes, due to the Empower system's flexible import interface.

USER COMMENTS

Reader 2012-09-24 11:59:41 PM
Srinivasan Nice technology.... Really helpful for mass production industries....

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