Vers Schakel, the pilot project for testing the use of RFID in the fresh vegetables supply chain, has yielded results after two years of trials. Not only does RFID appear to be of great value to the transparency and accuracy of the chain but it seems possible to apply the technology profitably in the near future.
Initiator of the pilot, Schuitema, and its partners Centraal Bureau voor Levensmiddelen (CBL), W Heemskerk BV, Intel, KPN, Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), NXP Semiconductors and Capgemini started the project in May 2005. The objective of the project was to acquire knowledge and experience with RFID in order to improve the quality and shelf-life of fresh cut vegetables.
A pilot scheme was set up for fresh cut vegetables from the supplier Heemskerk to the C1000 shop. RFID tags were attached to 2,500 crates filled with small packages of cut vegetables and tracked through the entire chain, with participants having real-time access to information via a central database.
It’s claimed that the new technology makes it possible to track the crates with 99 to 100 per cent accuracy through the entire chain – making it possible to have a full overview of the passage of the crates from supplier to shop shelf and back.
The link between Vers Schakel and a similar pilot scheme at Container Centralen (CC), the CBL crate pool manager, also appeared to be a success. Container Centralen used Vers Schakel’s crate registration to research the possibilities of improving pool management with RFID. The pilot scheme at Container Centralen indicated that the crates can be tracked within the distribution chain, allowing CC to better organise the availability and stocks of crates, react more quickly to developments in the market and thus serve its customers better.
Schuitema and its partners also examined whether it was possible to apply RFID profitably in practice. Here too the results were positive. Implementation of RFID in the chain for potatoes, vegetables, fruit and other fresh articles supplied in CBL crates provides a return on investment within an average of 2.7 years. However, an important precondition is that all chain partners participate. The first step that will have to be taken is the facilitation of the use of RFID by the crate owners and the crate pool managers. They must use crates that carry RFID tags as standard.