Magazine Article | May 25, 2006

RFID Improves Product Tracking For Produce Company

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, Annual Resource Guide To RFID & Supply Chain Management

For more than 50 years, Ballantine Produce has provided the produce industry with fresh fruit, progressing from its first-year production of 50,000 cartons to an annual distribution of more than 10 million packages. To sustain this growth, the company makes a point to stay on top of trends affecting all aspects of the produce business.

This approach prompted the company to explore RFID technology. In an industry where hourly variations in temperature can affect a product’s shelf life, Ballantine anticipates that RFID will revolutionize the tracking of its produce movement. The produce company is also a supplier to Wal-Mart, so it would eventually face RFID compliance deadlines. Ballantine decided to move forward with an RFID pilot test in February 2005. It set a June 1, 2005 deadline to begin testing to take full advantage of its selling season, which runs from June to September.

Ballantine turned to supply chain solutions provider Manhattan Associates to help develop and deploy an RFID-enabled solution. To obtain compliance with the Wal-Mart RFID mandate, the RFID solution needed to support evolving standards (e.g. EPCglobal Gen 2), support intelligent media detection and tag management, and have the ability to track Wal-Mart-required data (e.g. SKU, description, product family, EPC data, and grower details). Manhattan Associates helped Ballantine integrate Printronix SL5000e RFID printers to meet these requirements.

Representatives from Manhattan Associates worked with Ballantine to find the optimal reader antenna and tag placements on reusable plastic containers (RPCs) carrying peaches to achieve successful reads of 40 to 45 RPCs for each 55-RPC pallet load. Ballantine reports that the company was reading a majority of the RPC tags during the first days of the pilot project.

The pilot was carried out for the rest of the summer season and will be extended to include other products, such as grapes and imported Chilean fresh fruit. Although Ballantine is not required to place RFID tags on cases or pallets of the fruit it ships to any customers yet, the company is well-positioned to meet the Wal-Mart 2007 deadline for RFID compliance in perishables.