ARC survey shows variety in addition of RFID tags
A survey of companies that use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has shown several practices exist other than the so-called manual “slap and ship,” when applying the RFID tags to products.
ARC Advisory Group, the Dedham, Mass.-based consulting firm, said it talked to 24 companies actively investing in Electronic Product Code RFID.
In the sample, 85 percent of the facilities where tags were applied were distribution centers. “However, even when tags are applied at the DC, the term ‘slap and ship’ does not fairly reflect what is going on at many DCs,” an ARC spokesman said. “There is both more automation, and more process variation, than has been generally recognized.”
“Slap and stick” is the term that has been used for the process of applying RFID tags in the distribution center, where applying the tags can be a more manual, labor-intensive process than applying tags at the factory.
Beyond the “slap and ship” practice, the other two methods of applying RFIDS tags are the use of conveyors belts and preprinting encoded RFID labels and then applying these labels to the cases upon picking the cases, ARC said.
The conveyor belts can move pallets or cases to a value-added service tag application station, or from the RFID tag application station to a palletization station, or from a palletization station to the appropriate shipping dock. Conveyor lines may also contain start and stop gates and diverts. “Start and stop gates” are necessary when tags cannot be encoded or applied at high speed. These gates stop the line and allow tag application to proceed. A “divert” allows cases whose tags cannot be verified to be diverted off to a side station for reapplication of the tag.
Preprinting encoded RFID labels typically would be for pick-to-cart for mixed pallet orders, ARC said.
Wal-Mart has required its top 100 suppliers to be ready to use passive RFID tags for cases and pallets headed toward three specific distribution centers from this month.
“Virtually all manufacturers of consumer goods will eventually be impacted by this because Wal-Mart’s moves in RFID are being copied by other retailers,” ARC commented.