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STUDY: RFID delivers traceability for Mumm

By Retail Technology | Thursday November 7 2013

Prestigious champagne producer deploys RFID for improved batch traceability as well as reduced supply chain management and administrative overheads

Founded in 1827, the Pernod Ricard subsidiary G.H.Mumm is a global leader in the wines and spirits industry. And, due to its need to ensure the highest quality throughout the production process, traceability is a key issue for Mumm. 

Pernod Ricard had introduced a system to trace Martel Cognac in 2003, working with Intermec platinum partner Acteos. So, in 2008, Mumm started to work with Acteos to address its own batch traceability requirements. The production of champagne involves numerous stages and the company wanted to ensure complete traceability of crates throughout this development process. 

The bottles of champagne are stored in batches of up to 500 in wire crates within the 25 kilometres of galleries that comprise the Mumm cellars in the heart of Reims. These cellars today house nearly 25 million bottles of champagne. These bottles need to be stored for about three years while the bubble formation and aging process takes place, before entering the riddling and disgorgement stages, where sediment is isolated and removed. To ensure the traceability of these crates MUMM needs to manage every production stage carefully, as well as the stocks associated with each of these stages. 

The challenge is that there could be a change in batch number during an intermediate stage. The aging stage can be longer or shorter depending on the bottles, for example, and it was necessary to implement a solution that allows the operators to know exactly what each crate is composed of.

Turning to technology for solution

Mumm turned to Intermec and Acteos to provide a radio frequency identification (RFID) solution, consisting of Intermec IP30 handheld readers, along with its IF2 fixed readers, rewritable RFID tags and the Logidrive warehouse management system (WMS) from Acteos. This scalable and versatile solution has now made it possible for Mumm to manage the traceability of wire crates between the two final stages of champagne production – disgorging and labelling.

The humid conditions of the Mumm the cellars, and the metal of the wine crates themselves, presented a challenge that some RFID solutions can be ill suited to deal with. It was essential to implement a system that would allow RF waves to travel through the metal of the crates and also to withstand the very specific climatic conditions of the cellars.

Intermec and Acteos implemented ruggedised tags with encapsulation to make them moisture resistant and deliver the benefits of RFID traceability without the fear of tag deterioration. 

Updating supply chain processes

All wire crates containing the bottles of MUMM champagne were equipped with Intermec RFID tags. Once a crate has been filled, it is then passed in front of an Intermec RFID portal, which reads the information contained in the tag. This information corresponds to the identification number of the crate, and the crate keeps the same number throughout the production process. At each stage, readers located on the automated production and conveying process chain capture data and enter it into a traceability management system. 

This system therefore allows for an association to be made between the crate number and the contents of the crate, typically information relating to the bottles themselves and their numbers. 

The crate traceability deployed also makes it very easy to pinpoint defective batches, which can be easily identified to prevent them from returning to the production chain. And 100% of defective batches are now detected.

The fact that the contents of the crate can be associated with the crate itself also makes it possible to secure the batches. Now, if an operator makes a routing error for one or more crates, tag reading automatically detects the error and alerts the supply chain management system reducing variance to less than 5%. 

Maximising manufacturer throughput

The system also helps optimise batch number management during preparation of customer orders. Mumm can now automatically manage stock movements in its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system using the Acteos Logidrive WMS. 

Whenever a crate is moved within the cellar, a wire crate passes beneath a portal or bottle transfer takes place, the ERP is immediately informed. Automating this task frees up time for the production workshop manager, avoids mistakes and significantly reduces the workload of the operators. In addition, it has led to a 12.5% reduction per year in time spent on administrative tasks by Mumm’s operational managers. In the future, MUMM wants to use the same solution to enable create traceability between the transfer and disgorgement stages, part of Champagne process.

Johan Jarry, bottling, cellars and disgorgement manager at G.H.Mumm, said: “Now that the Intermec solution has been adopted by the whole team, it is proving a huge added value, saving management time and reducing the administrative load.”