RFID will automate the supply chain, but manufacturers must first address their own readiness
Radio frequency identification (RFID) momentum is growing. For companies that ship and track large quantities of product, high-speed, automated labelling is a must. With tag prices becoming more affordable and encoding speeds increasing, RFID has become an attractive alternative for organisations of all sizes. Printronix Inc. a global leader of integrated supply-chain printing solutions, suggests that organisations qualify their level of readiness before jumping in.
While RFID offers tremendous productivity and costs benefits, organisations must evaluate their operations to determine if automated labelling is the right business decision today, says Andrew Moore, senior product marketing manager, Printronix. The key is to accurately identify the solution that best fits current needs with an eye toward the future.
When considering automated labelling, Moore suggests that organisations evaluate the following:
- What are my projected case volumes this year? The number of cases to label per week or per month should have a significant impact on the decision to automate.
- What is my typical application? Your application methods will vary, and they will change with production requirements. For example, label registration tolerances for RF-hostile products may require tamp-blow application to ensure proper tag placement. A tag has to be positioned in an air pocket between cylinders of liquid, on a contoured surface, such as shrink wrap.
- Will there be cross-docking requirements? If you have cross-docking requirements, you may not have time to de-palletize, tag and re-palletize.
- What are my conveyor or production line speeds? An applicator is faster and more repeatable in its label placement accuracy.
- What size label will I be using? This question affects the process because different size labels require different placement and handling techniques.
- How can I manage tag quality? Unfortunately, converters can't guarantee 100 percent good tags. An applicator must have a way to handle rejects, dispense the bad tags and make a duplicate tag. The best approach is to spot defective tags before they are separated from the carrier line and leave them to accumulate on the take-up reel. Plus, this makes it easier to account for defective labels and address yield issues with the converter.
- What are my lead times? Time-sensitive products, like fresh produce, may require users to apply tags within a narrow window of time. In such cases, you may need to automate to satisfy delivery requirements.
- Can I protect the process? Did you know that a typical warehouse operation can generate between 8 and 15 kilovolts of electrical discharge? It takes as little as 500 volts to damage a chip! Before automating, you must include proper grounding of equipment.
Users have more flexibility and enhanced asset protection than ever before, Moore said. Whether they require an automated slap-and-ship system or an in-line production printer applicator to integrate into their manufacturing process, RFID manufacturers like Printronix offer field upgradeability features enable organisations to deploy a model that prints bar code labels only now, and easily upgrade to RFID printing later.
About Printronix Inc.
Since 1974, Printronix Inc. (NASDAQ: PTNX) has created innovative printing solutions for the industrial marketplace and supply chain. The company is the worldwide market leader in enterprise solutions for line matrix printing and has earned an outstanding reputation for its high-performance thermal bar code and fanfold laser printing solutions. Printronix also has become an established leader in pioneering technologies, including radio frequency identification (RFID) printing, bar-code compliance and networked printer management. Printronix is headquartered in Irvine, Calif.