Building A Chain Of Evidence

Several food distributors including Houston-based Sysco Corp. and central California's Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group, have completed a trial using radio frequency identification (RFID) to monitor the temperature and environmental conditions of food transport.

The pilot used the 3PL Solutions Distri'bution Access eXception (DAX) system to verify and document product quality, shipment integrity and security in its frozen foods and produce supply chains.

The integrated system includes applications software built on Alien's Battery Assisted Passive (BAP) RFID technology, multi-point sensors, as well as options for IrDA (Infrared Data Asso'ciation) communications, GPS (global positioning satellite) systems and integrated RFID data capture.

The DAX pilot program field testing was conducted by Alien Technology, Morgan Hill, CA, and 3PL Solutions, Welle'sley, MA, and addressed dedicated, less-than-truckload and intermodal shipments.

The companies say the RFID and sensor-enabled system provides cost-effective "chain of evidence" documentation for food shipments, addressing anticipated regulatory requirements for better documentation of quality and safety control in food shipments, as well as improving methods to avoid shrinkf from waste and spoilage losses.

"The field test demonstrated the viability of many potentially exciting applications for battery-assisted RFID and sensor-enabled systems. In environmentally sensitive supply chains, time-relative and event-driven data capture that monitors factors affecting shelf-life stability and cargo security has tremendous value," says Mark McDonald, director of product marketing at Alien Technology. "Alien's battery-assisted passive RFID technology is a flexible and scaleable platform to ad'dress emerging markets and applications for RFID."

The DAX system was built using Alien's long-range, high-performance 2450 megahertz (microwave) frequency BAP system, including the ALR-2850 Reader and the ALB 2484 tags, which features the ability to record sensor inputs for later wireless retrieval. The tag can be interfaced with any external sensor such as temperature sensors, tamper indicators or shock sensors. Because it uses low power backscatter technology, a small battery provides many years of operation.

A key feature of the DAX system is a lowcost means to develop an electronic bill of lading, the DAX Electronic Mani'fest, which provides essential records for producers, carriers and shippers of environmentally sensitive products. Conventional BOL information is married to electronic environmental data of various sorts.

Nash Finch Buys Two Roundy's DCs

Nash Finch Co. has purchased two distribution centers and two retail stores from Roundy's Inc.for approximately $225 million. The transaction was completed last month.

The DCs are located in Westville, IN, and Lima, OH, and the stores are in Ironton and Van Wert, OH.

The Westville and Lima divisions represent approximately $1 billion in annual food distribution sales, servicing more than 500 customers in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. No facility closures are expected given the strategic fit of these distribution centers into the Nash Finch network.

"The sale of our Lima and Westville distribution operations is consistent with our strategy of focusing on and growing our retail operations, and to concentrate on our independent distribution business in the upper Midwest," says Robert Mariano, chairman and CEO of Milwaukee-based Roundy's

"Our remaining Wisconsin-based distribution centers, including our new 1.1 millionsquare-foot facility in Oconomowoc, will efficiently service our company-owned stores and independent customers located primarily in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois where we continue to expand our presence. I believe our existing Lima and Westville customers will be serviced well under the stewardship of Nash Finch."

The two distribution centers employ approximately 950 employees.

"We are very pleased that this purchase is complete and we look forward to a smooth transition," says Ron Marshall, CEOof Nash Finch, Minneapolis. "Over the past few weeks, I have visited many of our new independent operators and I am impressed with their innovative stores and their uniform passion for supermarket retailing. Our continuing commitment to all our independent customers is to help them grow their business in an increasingly competitive market.

"Everyone at Nash Finch'including the approximately 800 new associates we welcomed to the company today'is excited about the opportunities we now have to expand our merchandising programs and improve productivity throughout our distribution network."

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