Heineken tests global coding standard

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Heineken has teamed up with IBM and a shipping company to test the
use of a global coding standard in simplifying customs clearance
for the company's beer exports.

The project, called the "Beer Living Lab", will use IBM's software to track cargo container shipments of Heineken beer from Europe to the US using satellite and cellular wireless technology. The companies will also use the coding standard created by EPCglobal to track the beer cartons.

The goal is to create paperless documentation through better system interoperability, resulting in faster deliveries and reduced costs for international trade, IBM stated.

The project involves international shipping company Safmarine, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (theUniversity of Amsterdam), and customs officials in the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

In the project, Safmarine plans to ship ten containers of Heineken beer from locations in both the Netherlands andUK to the company's distribution centre in the US. The University of Amsterdam will coordinate the project and provide documentationon best practices used to co-ordinate the shipment with regulators. The university then plans to sharethe information with companies across the EU.

Kelly Sims, an IBM spokeswoman, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the analysis of the shipmentswill be published in December. The shipments are now getting underway.

Yao-Hua Tan, a professor of electronic business at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam said the projectsets a groundbreaking path for for the next phase of clearing goods through customs electronically.

"Companies using these solutions could benefit greatly due to fewer physical inspections bycustoms, thus these e-customs solutions greatly facilitate international trade,"​ he stated.

IBM is using its Secure Trade Lane software for the project. Based on IBM's WebSphere electronicplatform the software provides real-time visibility and interoperability through a wireless sensor platform andservices oriented architecture (SOA), the company stated. The project's SOA, called the Shipment Information Services, leverages theglobal product code standards being developed by EPCglobal.

EPCglobal is developing royalty-free standards as the foundations of a global supply chaininformation network that combines RFID technology, existing communications network infrastructureand a system called Electronic Product Code (EPC), a number for uniquely identifying an item.

The development of common communication standards on product and shipment data would allowcompanies and regulators to share such item level information, thus speeding up the supply chain andcutting down on errors.

IBM says its use of the EPC global network and EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information Services)standards allows data to be shared in real time among Heineken, Safmarine and customs authorities inthe Netherlands, England and the US.

The system allows the company to skip building and maintaining a large central database with huge amounts ofinformation. Instead all data sources held by the various players in the supply chain are linkedthrough a common interface.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, about 30 different documents are associated with a single container crossing a border, which equals roughly five billion documents annually.

IBM hopes its project will provide a viable alternative to manufacturers, shippers, retailers and customs administrations as theymove toward a paperless shipping system.

"Once accepted and implemented widely, paperless trade will support initiatives such as Green Lane, which will eliminate most inspections on arrival, thus significantly speeding up ocean fright shipments and improving the profit margins forshippers,"​ IBM stated.

"Because efficient collaboration is a paramount requirement to making this work, IBM built the Shipment Information Services to address interoperability. If governments around the world are serious about electronic customs and paperless trade, they need to encourage each country to adopt open standards environments to enable collaboration and data sharing throughout the trade lane," said

Stefan Reidy, IBM's manager for its Secure Trade Lane unit said the Beer Living Lab project is the first step in buildinga trading intranet, which will help to substantially improve efficiency and security along the global supplychain.

This test is part of a project funded by the European Commission to develop information technology forelectronic government services. The project aims to help reduce security concerns and tax fraud.

Separately EPCglobal is conducting a similar test using the EPC in Asia as part of a two-phasepilot project that will drive progress on continued code standardisation and the use of RFID forautomated customs clearance.

The system is being tested on the sea-shipment of cartons between Hong Kong and Japan. EPCglobalsaid the launch of a pilot project will assess the use of passive and active UHF EPC/RFID tags forthe sea-shipment of cartons between Hong Kong and Japan. The Hong Kong EPC network will be used tocommunicate with other related networks in Japan. The first phase is scheduled for completion inFebruary 2007.

A second phase, scheduled for completion in September 2007, will test tags on containers shippedbetween Shanghai, China, and Los Angeles.

A unified data system would allow changes in information about product sizes, weight, name,price, classification, transport requirements and volumes to be immediately transmitted along thesupply chain. For example it would allow shippers to immediately know if the amount of productstacked on a pallet had changed, or give a retailer time to adjust display space.

The system is being built to help companies save money throughout the supply chain by using theorganisation's Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hormel Foods,Kraft, Unilever, Wegmans Food Markets and Sara Lee are among the food companies that have signed upto implement the system.

Related topics: R&D, Heineken

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