24 BREWING & BEVERAGE INDUSTRIES BUSINESS CONTAINERS Showcase NDL Keg Europe (formally Crusader Kegs and Casks) is opening a new site in Sheffield. European sales manager, Justin Raines, said, “This project has been a long time coming, as we had struggled to find the right premises to meet our needs. This new site fits the bill perfectly, as not only are we close to a number of major routes, we now have a dedicated transport company next door. Harris Trucking Storage has 100,000 sqft of warehouse space, and several delivery bays that we can utilise, making our operation easier to manage, as all our containers can now be stored in one central location. “Being part of a the NDL Group has given us some major benefits, including investment to allow us grow the business. This year we have added keg and cask washers to our portfolio, and we are now able to offer the iSpaniel tracking device on our kegs and casks.” The new site was due to officially open at the beginning of June. New Sheffield site for NDL Keg Europe Managing assets is crucial to operating a brewery, as it is any business, and a critical part of ensuring good housekeeping and profitability. As every brewer knows, containers such as casks and kegs are a valuable commodity and for an average regional brewer, the cost of operating a healthy stock of around 50,000 containers can run to upwards of £250,000 per year. Knowing where the containers are at any one time is therefore essential. But keeping tabs on them is not easy - and once they leave the brewery, controlling their whereabouts is a constant challenge, especially when trying to make the process of turning a container around - from filling, to delivery and then collection after three weeks - as efficient as possible. Yet despite being such an important process, container management has relied on decades-old technology without significant innovation. Status quo Mid-sized breweries employing tracking of any kind will be familiar with the status quo - the use of barcode labels, printed out and stuck onto the containers. In some cases up to three labels could be applied, to plot the destination, the contents and its fill status. Containers are designed to be robust, to deal with their harsh life cycle of being roughly handled, dropped, rolled, stored outside in the elements, and then put through an 80 degree caustic wash. So cases of tracking labels falling off, being scrubbed off, fading and being scratched are commonplace. “We were finding it a nightmare,” explains Hobsons Brewery founder, Nick Davis. “The time spent printing, sticking, and replacing the labels was onerous. The whole process seemed prehistoric when you consider the technology that’s out there. “I couldn’t say with 100% certainty where all our containers were at any one time. Not knowing where your containers are means the potential for delayed returns and collections, which of course impacts on efficiency and profitability.” Nick spent years improving the container management systems at Hobsons but, like all good meetings, it was in the pub when a potential ultimate solution was identified. Near Field Communication Through friends and contacts, Nick was made aware of Near Field Communi- cation (NFC) technology, already being explored by the University of Warwick for asset tracking. Distinct from Radio Frequency Identifi- cation (RFID) devices, which are large, expensive and require power, NFC chips are small, battery-free, cheap to produce and currently exist in many areas of modern life, from mobile phones to contactless card payments, and public transport passes. “We wondered about the possibility of implementing a container tracking system using NFC,” Nick said, “and with some crowdfunding and further work with the University, the iSpaniel company was born.” Worcestershire-based, iSpaniel took on Nick’s idea and with input from the University’s Warwick Manufacturing Group, developed a proprietary tag that houses a NFC chip and which bonds to the metal of the container, using aerospace- and Formula One-grade adhesive. Bill Webb, iSpaniel CEO, said: “The design and method of sticking the tags to the containers was a crucial part of the development. We’ve now got to a stage where you would need a hammer and chisel to remove the tag. Once it’s on, it stays on.” Continued on page 26 Tagging technology enables truly comprehensive container tracking www.ndlkegeurope.com For more information visit: 24_Layout 1 16/05/2018 14:00 Page 1