Affiliations: Department of Innovation Engineering, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy
Note:  Corresponding author: Luigi Patrono, Assistant Professor, Department of Innovation Engineering, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy. Tel.: +39 0832 297330; Fax: +39 0832 325362; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: This paper evaluates the impact of the EPCglobal international standard and some emerging Radio Frequency (RF) technologies, such as Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) and Near Field Communication (NFC), on the main processes of the fresh vegetables supply chain. Particular attention was focused on the first steps of the supply chain, which include cultivation in greenhouses and manufacturing of packaged vegetables, known as IV gamma products (i.e., goods ready to be consumed), because they represent crucial points of the considered supply chain. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of the current business processes was performed exploiting the experience of a big Italian company, with several locations and different brands. This analysis highlighted some critical aspects in the management of the whole supply chain, from the land to the table of the end-consumer, and allowed us to perform an efficient re-engineering of the main business processes. The re-engineered model was designed by exploiting the potentialities derived from the combined use of innovative technologies, including EPCglobal, RFID, NFC, and DataMatrix. Moreover, this work has led to the definition of important guidelines able to substantially improve both the culture techniques and the vegetables transformation procedures, based on strategic concepts such as precision agriculture, item-level traceability, and integration of heterogeneous Information Systems (IS). The proposed tracing and tracking system, based on EPCglobal standard, is able to guarantee to end-consumer the ability to know the entire history of the purchased product. Moreover, in order to evaluate the potential benefits of the re-engineered processes in a real supply chain, some metrics able to compare the current (AS IS) and reengineered (TO BE) models were considered. In particular, the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) method has been chosen to carry out this analysis on the pilot project implemented in the chosen company. Experimental results allowed us to derive a realistic estimate of the selected performance indicators for the re-engineered model.
Keywords: RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), item-level tracing system, EPC (Electronic Product Code), food supply chain, NFC (Near Field Communication), key performance indicator, precision agriculture