What Matters Most

A recent survey points out new information on cost and acceptance of RFID Technology. Tracking pallets and bar code printers is highlighted.

Recently, AIM completed a survey to determine the most important requirement for potential users of RFID technology. Leading the list of requirements (read barriers) was, not surprisingly, the cost of tags. Nearly 36 percent of the respondents cited the cost of tags, whereas 22 percent noted the overall system cost, as a barrier. From a technical point, read-distance of the equipment was cited by more than 22 percent as the thing of greatest concern.

Another survey, this from The Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech University, concluded that companies seem slow, or reluctant to use newer technologies in transportation functions. This reluctance seems to be based on cost and complexity of implementation. In the contradictory way of most surveys, at the same time respondents indicated that implementing new technologies offered substantial savings through improved planning.

RFID keeps tire info rolling

The process of putting an identifying marker on a part is called direct part marking (DPM), and we’ll be hearing more about it this year. The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) released its revised tire and wheel label RFID standard in late February. Equipment manufacturers, like Intermec, are quickly stepping up to endorse this standard. Developed by a group of users and manufacturers within the association, the standard helps to error-proof the tire assembly process and automate the collecting of tire information.

Suppliers of wheels and tires to the automotive industry will now have guidelines for printing and placement of two-dimensional bar code labels and passive read/write RFID tags. Placed on the inside of vehicle tires, the RFID tags will identify tires that are associated with a specific vehicle. For more information, visit aiag.org.

Everything based on the badge

At Rite-Aid’s Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center, the 1,400 employees in the one-million-square-foot facility need a badge produced on Zebra’s Eltron card printers for just about everything they do.

Badges serve four purposes at the center. They are used for photo identification, access control, time clock activity and productivity measurement. The badge itself is an RFID-based proximity card, custom designed, based on who ultimately wears the badge. The Eltron printers place a color employee picture on the front and a bar code on the back.

Everything is based on the badge. Besides allowing employees to enter the facility and clock in, it can measure productivity as employees swipe in at the beginning and end of activities such as order selection in the pick-to-light operation. Data collected indicates what an employee did in the last eight hours or, for that matter, the entire time they’ve been employed. For more information, visit eltron.com or zebra.com.

Tracking pallets

CHEP, a global pallet and container pooling supplier, working with Marconi InfoChain, has launched a program of real-time tracking of its pallets and containers. CHEP will use customized RFID tags and a variety of fixed mobile readers from Marconi that are compatible with established minimum performance protocol requirements of the GTAG (global tag) Project.

By initially focusing on the tracking of pallets through repair and inspection facilities, damage to pallets can be identified by specific location. A more accurate measurement of cycle times and greater optimization of asset utilization and pallet loss can be made.

The program also incorporates the expertise and technical strengths of Intermec Technologies’ Intellitag technology. Savi Technology has provided its asset management software, SmartChain, a real-time data collection software platform that integrates with automatic identification equipment. For more information, visit marconi-infochain.com, savi.com, intermec.com, and chep.com.

Printers do double duty

For a year or so there has been a lot of talk about bar code label printers “writing” information to an RFID tag placed underneath the bar code label — creating the so-called smart label. For example, Zebra’s R-140 printer can read, write and print labels carrying embedded ultra-thin RFID transponders. Transponders contain integrated circuits that can be read, programmed and re-programmed using non-contact radio waves. This revolutionary technology enables you to change and update data repeatedly throughout the life of the RFID smart label.

Working in a rugged environment? Because RFID technology uses radio waves, smart labels can be read through dirt, paint and many non-metallic objects. RFID smart labels feature anti-collision technology, which allows you to scan and identify several objects simultaneously, such as totes of supplies.

The question remains, who needs this technology? “The applications for ‘smart labels’ are starting to happen,” says Terry Pruett, director, thermal products, Printronix, “but people won’t be putting smart labels on every piece. The mass volume of labels will still be bar code labels.”

The applications for smart labels will most likely be for major subassemblies within certain industries. Pruett says the use of smart labels will expand when someone creates applications that are high-volume and based on RFID technology. And these applications will no doubt be in mission-critical process applications such as aerospace or pharmaceuticals. For more information, visit printronix.com and zebra.com. ADF

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