50 Kegs, 100% Reading Rate: How Smartrac is Improving Beverage Keg Tracking

Beverage kegs, gas cylinders and other curved metal returnable transport items (RTI) place high and quite particular demands on RFID tags. Together with our market partner Wilms Supply Chain Technologies, Smartrac provides a solution – and proves its ability to listen to customers’ needs and provide technology innovations.


Tagging kegs and other RTI is quite an obvious application area for RFID, yet it is a challenging one. LF (low frequency) solutions provide reliable product identification but somewhat lack range and flexibility for tracking applications. In contrast, existing RAIN RFID (UHF) solutions offer sufficient range but have a hard time guaranteeing complete reliability under bulk reading conditions. Another problem is the harsh treatment most kegs and gas cylinders are exposed to during production, distribution and maintenance processes such as cleaning and, particularly, forklift handling.


Leveraging the Expertise of Trusted Partners

Smartrac's long-time partner Wilms (located in Melle-Buer, Germany) defined this issue to the RFID and IoT pacesetter. Wilms is a system integrator with considerable experience in RFID as well as in developing and marketing turnkey solutions for the beverage industry. With the support of Wilms, Smartrac leveraged its expertise in the development of both industry-grade hard tags and high-performance on-metal tags to create the MAXDURA® KEG product line. Smartrac’s new hard tags provide superior solutions for identifying and tracking beverage kegs, gas cylinders and other curved metal RTI under bulk reading conditions. The product range consists of UHF and dual-frequency (UHF and NFC) fully encased tags for adhesive mounting on metal surfaces, and a printed circuit board (PCB) tag for embedding into polyurethane (PU) covers.


Excellent Reading Characteristics



The fully encased UHF-only MAXDURA KEG hard tag and its dual-frequency sibling MAXDURA KEG DUAL are permanently glued to the inner face of the keg’s collar. There, they are optimally protected, do not interfere with hand transport and allow a lifting rod to be inserted.

This specific tag placement also contributes to superior reading characteristics that allow 100% reading rates even when palettes or truckloads with up to 50 kegs pass a UHF RFID gate. To reliably achieve that superior performance, MAXDURA KEG’s and MAXDURA KEG DUAL’s UHF antennas are optimized to deliver maximum reading performance when placed about 15-20mm millimeters from the handling hole. Independent of its UHF performance, MAXDURA KEG DUAL’s NFC functionality simply requires tapping the tag with a smartphone, as defined by NFC standards.


Superior Solutions Suitable for Keg Manufacturing and Retrofitting



The additional PCB tag MAXDURA KEG EMBEDDED is optimized for embedding or inserting into the PU which then acts as a casing. Carefully optimized for this environment, MAXDURA KEG EMBEDDED equals its glue-on siblings in terms of its superior reading characteristics. Another strong benefit all MAXDURA KEG products share is that they forego the need for welding. All are hence suitable for building into new kegs as well as for retrofitting existing ones.


The performance and flexibility of the MAXDURA KEG product line is the result of an application-centric development procedure including extensive lab and anechoic chamber tests, as well as practical tests in close cooperation with customers.


Dual Frequency Featuring NFC for Better Customer Experiences and Acceptance



The additional NFC functionality of MAXDURA KEG DUAL tags enables various options. Firstly, keg suppliers can connect with their customers in a smooth and innovative way and provide them with a multitude of mobile digital experiences at the tap of a smartphone. Secondly, NFC enables customers such as innkeepers or retailers to access keg ID data – formerly provided through low-frequency tags – smoothly via their smartphones and hence without the need for dedicated handheld readers.


Instant Success

The superior performance and flexibility MAXDURA KEG tags offer have instantly made an impact on the target group. Prior to the official product launch in October 2019, Wilms Supply Chain Technologies secured one of Germany's largest suppliers of draught beer as a pilot customer for the retrofitting of its PU kegs with MAXDURA KEG EMBEDDED tags. “Our success is based on customer-oriented solutions. Hence, it’s great to witness one of RFID’s leading manufacturers display the same degree of customer orientation and tailor its product development to specific market needs,” said Horst Rademacher, responsible for supply chain technologies at Gustav Wilms oHG.


For further information, please contact our Sales & Customer Service Team.