New Belgium Goes RFID

New Belgium Brewing Co. is using radio frequency identification (RFID) to track kegs from its brewery in Fort Collins, Colo.

The relativey new technology allows the brewer to track when a particular keg was filled at its facility, shipped to a distributor, onto a restaurant or pub, and then returned to the brewery.

After a pallet is loaded, it passes through the fixed interrogator portal that reads the unique ID number encoded to each keg tag. Those tag numbers, along with the time and date of the read, are then sent to software system residing on New Belgium’s back-end server. The staff also prints a bar-coded ID number onto an adhesive label and applies it to the pallet’s exterior. The pallet ID number is married to the data regarding the kegs loaded onto that pallet.

At a later time, when the loaded pallet is shipped, its bar-code label is scanned, and that ID number is then recorded, along with the kegs’ RFID numbers and the time, date and intended destination. In this way, the company retains a record as to which kegs are loaded onto which pallet and, ultimately, where they will be shipped. Other data, including the type of beer with which the keg is filled, is also stored in the system.

After it tags all of its kegs and installs readers at the DCs, restaurants, bars and stores, the company intends to track each keg’s current location in the supply chain, as well as the length of time the kegs remain at distributors. The system already provides data regarding each keg’s cycle time-the period starting at the moment that keg is filled, and ending when it is later refilled.