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European integrated info-box system for improved food safety and logistics

Exploitable results

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) project was to improve logistics and to increase transparency of information in the logistic chain of perishable goods such as meat products. Ibos aimed 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 and tracing of meat products will be enabled. Ibos provided 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. Ibos 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 IBOS at several logistic nodes. Objective of the trial was to prove and optimise the technical and business benefits of the Ibos, as a last step before a successful commercialisation. The main exploitable results of the project were: - plastic transport crate with in-moulded transponder and optional temperature logger; - RFID transponder in-mould 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 Ibos. The main conclusions were: 1. 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. 2. In the internal trial most of the components of the Ibos 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. 3. 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 60 cm) in testing at the location of Bull-Fleisch. 4. At an extended pilot at Bull Fleisch the Ibos 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. 5. The two final pilots including retailers (Ireland, the Netherlands and within Germany showed that: - The Ibos functions and processes fulfilled without any errors the requirements of paperless documentation of data for proof and origin; - Using the Ibos system in company processes leads to significant reductions in work steps (hand written entries into joint packing lists, data input into data processing systems, etc.); - The use of the info-box system leads to a reduction of work of 8-10 hours a week at the butcher in the supermarket and saves 1 out of 5 workers at the refrigerated areas in the meat company. 6. With the info-box system a meat company can offer extra added value to its customer (solution for general food law). Next to a 14 cm high crate, the users would also require a higher crate of 20 cm. 7. The final pilot proved that the info-box system is a reliable and well performing system with substantial (economic) advantages to the users. After this final pilot the info-box system is ready for exploitation. 8. For a widespread general use of the Ibos info-boxes and Ibos system on the European market, standardised rules for processes, inputs and documentation from all users would have to be drawn up and decided on.