RFID Takes Center Stage at Big Show

June 1, 2004
"Sure, we can do that!" "How are we going to do that?"

The RFID drama is being written by industry folks who might know what they want in terms of driving out cost and driving up profits; however, they don't always know what they're talking about. I'll be generous. Let's say they're not aware of what packaging's role in the supply chain pageant might really be. It sort of reminds me of the television commercial in which the meek employee responds to his boss' outrageous command, "Sure, we can do that!" Then, when the boss leaves the room, says, "How are we going to do that?"

Well, here's how you can do it. I've just learned that RFID will have its own pavilion at Pack Expo International this November 7-11. So -- radio frequency identification (RFID) is finally making it to the big show. If packaging professionals had any doubt about the validity of RFID, this is proof that RFID is, indeed, a serious hot topic. Pack Expo is the biennial event sponsored by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) and one of the larger trade shows in the world, bringing together more than 1,900 exhibitors in 1.3 million square feet of McCormick Place.

The RFID pavilion will highlight technologies for case and pallet tagging and verification. If you're looking for the tools you need (and who isn't?) to enable those RFID-driven printers, or the equipment used to write and validate electronic product code (EPC) tags, this is the place to be. Also covered will be smart packaging machinery that uses RFID to adjust its operational settings.

"Pack Expo International has a long history of focusing on technologies and trends that matter most to the operations of packaging professionals," says Chuck Yuska, president, PMMI.

Another packaging subject making its debut at the show with its own special focus area will be packaging security. Certainly it's not a new subject; however, it is one that has received a higher level of attention in the past couple of years. Called the Packaging Security Resource Center, the area has been designed to bring together packaging operations aligned against the threat of bioterrorism, counterfeiting and product adulteration.

This center of information will feature tabletop exhibits and technology displays from a select group of package-security technology companies, service providers and government representatives.

If you've been enjoying the innovators series we've offered here in MHM, you'll have to make a stop at the Showcase of Packaging Innovations. Not only will the Institute of Packaging Professionals' Ameristar Award winners be displayed, you will also find special designs from organizations such as the Glass Packaging Institute and the National Paperboard Packaging Council competitions.

One of the things that helps elevate Pack Expo above many other trade show events is its substantive education conference. These conference sessions are not commercials. Numerous hours of information programming run in conjunction with all the sizzle happening down on the show floor. This year's conference program begins November 8 and will run three days.

The conference offers you a chance to learn about new packaging products and services from unbiased sources. The conference schedule, posted at www.packexpo.com, was not complete when this was written. You can be sure it will cover current and future packaging issues, as well as the fundamental blocking and tackling critical to success.

"RFID technology and package security are key concerns for packagers around the globe," says Yuska. "We've incorporated these new pavilions to allow attendees to expand their knowledge in these areas while spending time in one convenient location."

Pack Expo is the place to go to learn about the future. Many folks are still struggling with how RFID tags will be attached to pallets, and how the tags will endure the rigors of the distribution center. Others have moved on to the technical challenges of creating packaging lines with equipment able to print and apply labels, and other advanced uses of the technology. Pack Expo offers you the opportunity to assess exactly where your company is on RFID's vertical learning curve.

Clyde E. Witt, executive editor

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