During the past two years, consumer packaged goods (CPG) suppliers have conducted pilots using Electronic Product Code (EPC) radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, and have come a long way in their understanding of the technology and its benefits. Compared with bar codes, RFID holds 30 times more information, does not require line of sight to be read, works in tough environmental conditions and can be embedded into a product or packaging. RFID improves productivity through automation: enabling unique stock keeping unit (SKU) serialization, and saves valuable time in reading products versus individual hand scanning. The newest RFID tags operating in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band of the electromagnetic spectrum allow for fast tag-to-reader communication and can be read over moderate distances with low power consumption.
UHF tags in smart label form are moving into CPG supply chain. With all the benefits of RFID also come the challenges of implementing this technology due to the physical characteristics of radio frequency communication. RFID is sensitive to the product and packaging materials to which it is applied. Certain materials such as glass and cardboard have little effect on readability, while metal and liquids can quickly reduce the signal strength emitted from an RFID label.
This paper identifies the product and packaging variables that affect the performance of RFID smart labels, and provides advice on the appropriate measures to take to address difficult data reads. Knowing how to identify RF friendly and unfriendly materials and learning some techniques to minimize the effects of RF signal degradation can help users implement RFID successfully.