Magazine Article | August 1, 2005

$15 Billion CPG Company Tests RFID In Diverse Environments

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, August 2005

When a Fortune 200 consumer packaged goods (CPG) company prepared for Wal-Mart's January 2005 RFID (radio frequency identification) deadline, it had the daunting task of ensuring the RFID tags could be read on different types of products and packaging (i.e. liquids and metals) in different environments (i.e. cold and hot). Over a six-month period, the company tested different RFID printers with mixed results. The CPG company contacted Printronix for a demonstration of an RFID desktop printer, which after review and testing was selected to perform RFID label printing for the pilot project. Additionally, the company partnered with third party logistics provider and supply chain execution and optimization specialists Manhattan Associates to develop its RFID solution.

Using Manhattan Associates' RFID-in-a-Box suite of RFID-enabled and EPC (electronic product code)-aware supply chain execution and visibility solutions with an RFID data management and integration solution, the company was ready for its pilot test.

The pilot was developed as a depalletization/repalletization process known as slap and ship. This entailed setting aside mixed pallets at the end of the normal shipping process and adding a final RFID step. The test analyzed how tags should be applied, the average time involved, and the efficiency of the process. SKUs (stock keeping units) with RF-unfriendly contents, such as liquids and metals, were used for the pilot. After analysis, the company re-engineered various steps in the labeling process to improve efficiencies where needed.

Optimal RFID label placement was established, and 64-bit Class 1 squiggle RFID tags from Alien Technology were selected for the 4-inch by 2-inch case label. To avoid the inefficiencies of manually applying large batches of labels to cases, the slap-and-ship process was automated using Printronix' SLPA7000e RFID encoder, printer, and applicator.

The CPG company has decided on an incremental approach to adopting RFID as standards and capabilities continue to quickly change. It will focus the enterprise RFID team on common solutions such as middleware, label/tag application, and equipment selection. The next step will be to scale the process to introduce the next wave of products requiring tags for 2006.