Beaver Street Fisheries tests RFID waters

Radio-frequency identification systems developer Franwell and middleware vendor GlobeRanger have teamed with the Danby Group, a supply chain systems integrator, to implement an RFID compliance solution at Beaver Street Fisheries.

Jacksonville, FL-based BSF is one of the nation’s largest distributors of frozen seafood and meat. The solution is built on GlobeRanger’s iMotion™ Edgeware™ platform.

Following qualification testing, BFS selected printer-encoders from Zebra Technologies. BSF’s arrangement includes a pilot line in the facility that uses a Zebra R110XiIIIPlus unit and a test lab using Zebra Z4MPlus and R4MPlus units. A 4’’x6’’ pressure-sensitive “smart label” is affixed to the side of corrugated cases. The labels must withstand the rigors of frozen handling and distribution. Among other details, RFID Antenna has learned that the tags are embedded with Matrics Class 0+ RFID tags.

“After conducting several RFID pilots, we selected Franwell’s rfid>Genesis package to help us rapidly deploy a proven solution,” says Howard Stockdale, chief information officer of BSF. “We are the only frozen seafood company that volunteered to meet Wal-Mart’s compliance requirements by January of 2005.”

Highly challenging

“Frozen seafood is extraordinarily challenging for RFID,” says Danby salesman Rich Bruce. “Although ice is RF transparent, frozen fish acts like a metal plate. Each species is different; shellfish is as different from fish as squash and apples are in produce applications.”

The Zebra printer-encoder operation in the plant consists of the following process:

1. Receives Electronic Product Code information and programs that to the RFID tag portion of the smart label.

2. Verifies that the data is correct and the tag is working.

3. Prints human-readable information such as bar code and other data.

4. Dispenses label for application onto the case.

BSF’s initial implementation phase includes setting up compliance stations where RFID labels are encoded using a Zebra R110 smart label printer-encoder and applied to corrugated cases of tilapia, crab, lobster, and other frozen fish products. Cases are then validated through an RFID portal. The company packages more than 500 different items. —RL

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