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Using RFID Technology To Track Returnable Items: Luggage, Kegs, Blood Bags & More


As returnable items move from one location to another - be it through an airport, to a new location within a large site, or from a distribution center out into stores - there is always a chance that they will be lost, misplaced, mishandled, or damaged, resulting in delays and unnecessary costs.


This blog will look at three case studies where businesses have adopted RFID (radio frequency identification) systems to improve asset visibility and workflow efficiency, as well as reduce losses.


1) The Benefits Of RFID Technology

2) How Delta Air Lines Used RFID Technology To Track Passenger Luggage

3) How A Large Brewery Used RFID Technology To Track Kegs

4) How A Hospital Used RFID Technology To Track Blood Products


The Benefits Of RFID Technology


Before we highlight three key case studies whereby RFID technology has been used to track returnable items, it's important that we consider the high-level benefits of adopting any RFID solution.


These benefits include, but are not limited to:


• Maximising the usage of your available assets

• Preventing losses and mishandling

• Mitigating disputes between trading partners (by creating digital "proofs")

• Increasing the speed of inventory counts from hours to minutes

• Improving right-sizing capabilities by generating visibility of exactly how many assets are at any given location


How Delta Air Lines Used RFID Technology To Track Passenger Luggage


According to SITA’s Baggage IT Insights 2019 report, “the most common cause behind [baggage] mishandling is delayed bags, which accounted for three-quarters of lost luggage [in 2018]”. Delta Air Lines - a leader in domestic and international travel, offering flights to more than 300 destinations in 60 countries - were one of the first travel companies to tackle the challenge of baggage mishaps using RFID technology.


The Vision


Delta Air Lines handle more than 120 million bags each year and were struggling to keep track of exactly where bags were at any given point in time. They wanted to use a real-time location system to speed up inventory counts and locate individual bags more effectively. They also wanted to give passengers greater visibility of their checked bags - to improve customer experiences and better manage expectations.


The Solution


Delta Air Lines invested more than 50 million into a state-of-the-art RFID solution - inclusive of 4,600 scanners, 3,800 RFID bag tag printers and 600 readers. They were able to automate baggage scanning and achieve a tracking success rate of 99.9 percent. Now, customers can see exactly where their bags are along their journey, and staff can be more effective at locating and managing bags for passengers.


How A Large Brewery Used RFID Technology To Track Kegs


The Vision


One of the UK's largest breweries was concerned that keg losses were being incurred due to theft or mishandling - although this was difficult to prove and so it was difficult to hold anyone accountable. Looking at the ongoing cost of new kegs, it was estimated that around 18 million were being lost, each year, because of poor supply chain visibility. The objective was to adopt a real-time locationing solution that could pinpoint exactly where kegs were at any given point in time.


The Solution


The brewery spent 8 million deploying an RFID system across 26 depots and 600 vehicles; they digitally tagged almost 2 million containers. With this system in place, keg losses were halved and cycle times were reduced by 4 days - improving inventory management for all parties involved. No new containers needed to be purchased in the following 3 years and distribution overheads were significantly improved because of reduced errors.


How A Hospital Used RFID Technology To Track Blood Products


A major healthcare provider with more than 20 operating theatres and almost 900 beds invested in RFID technology to improve the management of blood and blood products - of which they were dealing with over 12000 units, each year.


The Vision


Before investing in RFID systems, the hospital's blood products were tracked using a paper-based system which involved nurses manually signing products in and out of refrigerated units. This manual workflow was resulting in 60% of blood being removed from fridges without being signed out. The hospital's objective was to integrate a system that would more accurately track usage and automate workflows for clinicians - providing real-time information for staff throughout the hospital.


The Solution


With budgets under pressure, the hospital decided to split the cost of implementing an RFID solution between the hospital (as a whole), initially, and then the pathology department, moving forward. They used RFID technology to create a smart fridge: blood units were dispensed, based on a request form, and digitally associated with matched patients. To unlock the fridge, staff would have to scan their personal ID badges and an alert system was integrated within the fridge to ensure that incorrect items were not removed. Now, compliance is automatically reinforced and the hospital has more accurate information about the usage of its blood products.


MiTEQ: Specialists In Real-Time Location System Solutions


MiTEQ is helping business leaders across all verticals to deploy asset tracking, management and mobility solutions. We can help you decide the best way to track returnable items, manage your assets, and streamline workflows using cutting edge enterprise technology solutions. We are confident that we can provide you the best return on your investment.




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