A SMART TRACKING SYSTEM FOR SMEs

Tunity Technologies’ Smart Management Tracking System helps SMEs maximise resources and increase productivity

A Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) detection gantry is set to change the way SMEs operate. Developed by Tunity Technologies, the Smart Management Tracking System (SMTS) comprises a gantry that can monitor and read RFID tags attached on any item from large containers to even plates and trays.

It is being used by SMEs in the food and beverage (F&B) industry such as hip gastropark Timbre+ to improve work ow, through inculcating the habit of returning plates and trays among its patrons. In doing so, the gastropark has maximised manpower and even challenged societal norms.

Timbre+ worked with Tunity to implement a tray-return system. Diners pay an extra dollar when they order food, then get reimbursed when they return their RFID-tagged tray at an automated gantry.

The system has reduced the number of cleaners needed from eight to three and with the new system, more than 95% of diners return their trays after meals.

“We changed the socio-cultural behaviour of diners and gave owners visibility on the situation on-site. It was a very interesting project,” says Ms Lim Peck Hui (photo, right), Managing Director of Tunity.

 

Innovating for SMEs

Developing RFID solutions has been Tunity’s mission since its establishment in 2003, as a spin-off company of ST Electronics.

Founded by Ms Lim and Mr Chung Say Kin, Director, the company went independent in 2009 and currently has a 25-member workforce.

To date, Tunity has completed many innovative deployments of RFID tags, including designing, developing and implementing total management and tracking solutions using RFID technology, for use in the military as well as museums.

The benefits of these solutions are clear visibility, traceability and productivity in managing resources.

“A strong back-end system is important for SME owners who are always running about chasing business orders. From personal experience, there is a need to make sure that the back-of-house is run properly, so that there is a seamless ow,” says Ms Lim. “Your process must be like the passing of a baton. Owners cannot always step in, so there is a need to invest in technology systems to progress and grow,”she adds.

Tunity had the opportunity to improve on an Item Management Tracking System first developed by Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology.  The system used handheld readers to quickly document RFID tagged items, taking stock of an entire box of tagged items with a single wave of a tag reader.

Building on that, Ms Lim and her team created an RFID detection gantry to make the process hands-free, and named the new and improved iteration SMTS.  SMTS was developed under SPRING Singapore’s Collaborative Industry Projects initiative. The initiative encourages enterprises and industry partners to work together and develop solutions that will drive transformation in the industry and improve productivity.

In general, harnessing RFID technology raises productivity by 30% to 80%, according to Ms Lim.  SMEs receive a grant of up to 70% on adoption costs for the SMTS, which reduces the cost of two hand- held readers, a fixed gantry, cloud- based management system, $500 worth of RFID tags, and training and consultation to slightly over $5,000.

Revitalising food services

Encouraging clients to adopt SMTS is a challenge. “Some F&B owners, especially those from the older generation, have been disappointed by technology. They believed and invested in solutions that later turned out to be white elephants,” Ms Lim explains. “We had to be empathetic when we talked to them about SMTS.”

Despite the challenges, SMTS has proved to be popular with F&B business owners. Depending on their needs, RFID tags with different specifications are used, such as the passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID tag. Some RFID tags are used for metal assets while others are more suitable for non-metal assets. They do not rely on batteries and have a range of one to six metres.

Even companies working on the backend of F&B have benefitted from the system. For example, cleaning services company JCS-Echigo has been using the system since late 2016 to keep track of the number of tubs containing dirty cutlery and plates.

In the past, staff recorded the information by hand. The process is prone to human error, sometimes causing disputes between workers and management.  Now the numbers are seamlessly tracked via the SMTS gantry. The company has since ordered a second installation of SMTS.

Improvements Abound

As more enquiries from SMEs come in, Tunity is working on improving the SMTS system to combine RFID technology with other sensing technologies, which may be useful for cleaning service providers. The add-ons will provide more accurate information on the quantity of cutlery in tubs, raising professionalism and accountability.

“With the rise of the Internet of Things, we hope to integrate RFID with more sensors and complementary technology. We’re looking at Bluetooth technology and video analytics, depending on the resources of clients,” Ms Lim says.

“SMEs need continuity from one asset to another. For example, some businesses that have acquired the SMTS want to link it to their point of sale or accounting system. We’re hoping to fill the gap,” she adds. Ms Lim takes pride in what Tunity does. “We’re very passionate about this because we’re helping our fellow SMEs cope with their challenges of using technology.”