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Tracking the Coffee Supply Chain with EPC RFID – A real case

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The main goal of the project was to provide a solution to the problem of storing coffee beans for COPACAFE , a cooperative company with more than 4.000 producers as members. Usually this kind of company aims to aggregate value to its coffee producers by providing sharing services such as storage, blending and sales. Such services involve works such as coffee logistics, transportation, origin tracing, coffee classification, storage and coffee blending. Coffee crops vary each year producing beans with different aspects which consequently result in different coffee classification even if they come from the same farm and trees. This means that each batch of received coffee must be classified by using a sample of the beans. Before the RFID project, all references and identification were done using handwritten stickers and spreadsheets. The problem however was that once the coffee went to a specific storage location in the warehouse, its physical location would change because the manipulation of big-bags by the forklifts were done also based on written orders and eye verification, causing misplacement of big-bags compromising coffee tracing. In that scenario the execution of simple picking order would take very long because of searching, causing a very expensive and inefficient operation which was compromising the cooperative operation. Also, checking and weight annotation were done manually, and the warehouse was not connected to the cooperative management system. most RTLS solutions. The solution is also prepared to extend its tracking/tracing capabilities of coffee from the producer to the consumer using GS1 /EPCGlobal standards, uniquely identifying coffee origin in pure arabica brands or origins in coffee blends, in addition to its processing history.

The devised and deployed RFID solution was based on the WelCOSS-RFID platform which uses UHF EPC RFID tags for identifying coffee batchs using a strategy of equipping big bags with RFID tags, forklifts with RFID readers and mapping the coffee warehouse floor with RFID tags with a location resolution of 1,2 metres – which is better than most RTLS solutions. The solution is also prepared to extend its tracking/tracing capabilities of coffee from the producer to the consumer using GS1 /EPCGlobal standards, uniquely identifying coffee origin in pure arabica brands or origins in coffee blends, in addition to its processing history.

In this talk, this real RFID case will be presented along the context of supply chain problems and the opportunities of value gain provided by the RFID technology as well as ROI and payback results that can be achieved with a right strategy. Other RFID projects, such as the HemoNet, using the WelCOSS-RFID platform will also be mentioned and potentially discussed during the talk.

This talk is part of the DIAL seminars series.

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