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Soft-Drink Manufacturer Finds Myriad Benefits From RFID Solution

Swire Coca-Cola HK employs the technology to track cylinders and tanks within its facilities and at customer sites.
By Bob Violino
Oct 10, 2011Swire Coca-Cola HK, a soft-drink manufacturer located in Hong Kong, faced several daunting inventory-management challenges. Each day, the company delivers approximately 10,000 carbon dioxide cylinders and soft-drink post-mix (PM) tanks—which contain syrup to be mixed to create beverages—to roughly 3,000 customers, including major dining chains McDonald's, Fairwood and Maxim's Group. The company found it difficult to track all the cylinders and tanks as they circulated throughout the city.

The process of tracking container deliveries to customers, as well as returns to Swire's warehouse, was performed manually, with operators recording the containers' status on paper documents. This often led to inaccurate status reports due to human error, and did not provide the company with real-time visibility into its inventory's whereabouts. Swire estimates it lost 500 tanks and cylinders annually.

A CO2 tank with a UHF RFID tag attached.

There were also issues related to food safety. Because Swire could not trace specific containers, the firm had to recall all containers from customers in the event that an ingredient posed a potential safety concern.

In addition, CO2 cylinders are regulated items in Hong Kong. The age of every cylinder must be recorded properly, and the cylinders need to be inspected by the government every five years. But the company had no way to uniquely identify the cylinders.

In 2010, Swire's managers began seeking a technology solution to manage the assets at all stages. "An effective management system for the large number of cylinders is essential," says Nelson Law, the firm's supply chain director, "not only for efficient operation, but also to assist recycling with accurate tracking of inventory."

Currently, Swire Coca-Cola HK is reaping myriad benefits from a radio frequency identification solution it deployed in June 2011.
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