Because of several meat scandals, consumer trust in meat products is severely damaged. Food safety and chain reliability will have to be increased. That is why the objective of the Info-Box System (IBoS) was to improve logistics and to increase transparency of information in the logistic chain of perishable goods such as meat products.
The IBoS Trial complies with the EU objective to safeguard food quality and logistics transparency by establishing a reliable logistic chain as is lacking at present. (EU regulation 820-97).
The info-Box System (IBoS) aims to increase the transparency of information in the logistic chain of perishable goods such as meat products. By increasing the transparency of information food safety will be improved as the logistic processes in all nodes will be performed more secure and efficient and easy tracking & tracing of meat products will be enabled.
The info-Box System is a means to close the information gap that exists in the logistic chain between slaughterhouse and supermarket. Closing the logistic chain improves food safety and is of great importance to regain the lost consumer trust in meat products. The info-Box System is an integrated system of a new transport crate (info-Box) with state-of-the-art RFID ISO transponder technology built in the box and a new Supply Chain Management System to manage and control the information flows related to the use of the info-Box. This open standard, Internet based Supply Chain Management System enables every node in the logistic chain, from the slaughterhouse (box filler) to the supermarket (box emptier), to access the stored information of each box.
Successful innovation in the logistics chain requires the support of all nodes and high standardisation, requiring extensive field trials to prove the benefits. Trials are therefore performed in daily practice with 9000 info-Boxes to test the integrated info-Box System at several logistic nodes. Objective of the Trial was to prove and optimise the technical and business benefits of the info-Box system, as a last step before a successful commercialisation.
During the project, the following activities have been performed:
- selection of components;
- internal implementation;
- internal trials;
- external implementation;
- external trials;
- final trials;
Central in the the iBoS Trial are 1 internal and 2x2 external pilots where finally 8.000 IBoS boxes have introduced in the logistic chain and functioned in addition to the currently used crates and systems. The 2x2 external pilots are carried out in two logistics flows:
- one flow from Ireland (AIBP) to the Netherlands (Hendrix Meat Group, Groothedde, Jumbo Supermarket, Super de Boer);
- one flow within Germany (Bull-Fleisch, Zimbo, Kartstadt, Walmart).
In the first pilot meat products are transported from meat producer to warehouse. In the second pilot also the retailers took part, which closed the logistics chain.
The main exploitable results of the project are:
- Plastic transport crate with inmoulded transponder and optional temperature logger;
- RFID transponder inmould technology;
- RFID transponder/antenna application expertise (for harsh environments).
- RFID interface and communication software (for reader/writers, hand readers and gate readers);
- RFID controlled conveyor system with optional scale and/or switch;
- ICT solutions for managing RFID enabled objects at logistical nodes (production, packing, warehouse);
- Supply Chain Management System with local and central applications (software/hardware);
- Tested integrated info-Box System.
The main conclusions are:
- Because of the status of the technology extra in-depth testing was necessary on gate readers and in-moulded transponders before the info-Box could be implemented for the internal Trial.
- In the internal Trial most of the components of the info-Box system performed well. The main challenges to be solved during the internal Trial were the transponder label reliability and quality connections chip-antenna and label-box), gate reader performance (<100% recognition, speed, ability to read industries-pallets), antenna technology. As reliability and performance had to be convincing before rolling out the system externally, the internal Trial took longer than planned. After a second phase of internal testing, the complete system showed satisfactory performance.
- Two external pilots with info-Boxes including meat companies have been performed: Ireland-the Netherlands and within Germany. As the first test series showed to contain transponders of a false production run, the results of the first series were not satisfactory. The first results of the second series however showed perfect performance (approx. 100% readability at 60cm) in testing at the location of Bull-Fleisch.
- At an extended pilot at Bull Fleisch the info-Box System was further tested and optimised. After these tests the IBoS-Info-Boxes, the IBoS Database, the IBoS Terminal with a connection to the weigher, the IBoS terminal with connection to the IND gate and the IBoS handheld reader showed perfect reliability and performance.
- The two final pilots including retailers (Ireland-the Netherlands and within Germany showed that:
- Technical Implications
The main recommendations when using the system are as follows.
- While using the gates, no transponders other than the ones subject to reading must be in the vicinity of the antennas. Antennas in gates are also active on the outside of the gate. Therefore a “transponder-free” space of at least 1 metre around the gate is needed. It will be discussed with the gate reader suppliers if shielding can be added to the gate.
- The IBoS-Info-Box was, at the time of the trial, available only in one size (14 cm high). The users would also require a higher crate. The info-Box System consortium therefore plans to introduce other sizes of boxes too, for example a 20cm high version.
- The setup of the charges to be build up by the box fillers, should be defined on an European level. The charge number should be available in a standardised way next to the data of the builtup charge, also the ES/EZ number of the filler and/or the ES number of the supplier.
- Stacking the IBoS-Info-Boxes on the roller carts between the cart’s metal fences must be done so that the IBoS-Info-Box transponders on the first stack face forwards, and the transponders in the second stack face the worker who pushes the cart. In these positions the IBoS-Info-Box transponders the data of the picked shipments can be optimally read and checked by the IboS handheld-reader.
- The gate-reader performance in practise showed to be better than expected:
- IBoS-Info-Boxes on the roller carts whose transponders are not facing the antenna are also read in the IBoS-RFID gate;
- The metal fences on the roller carts do not influence the reading results of the IBoS-RFID gate;
- The electric carts tested at ZIMBO did not influence the reading results of the IBoS-RFID gate as they passed through with IBoS-Info-Boxes stacked on a H1 pallet.
- When using the IBoS system, many manual data entries and inputs for the purpose of documenting for proof of quality and origin are eliminated, thereby eliminating many sources of errors:
- writing the delivery note at the filling company (ex. Bull-Fleisch);
- writing the joint packing lists for the delivery note and the wholesaler ZIMBO;
- writing the picking lists of a logistics service company;
- documentation at the receiver of the goods.
- The number of info-Boxes to be read b