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How to Be a Successful Label Leader

The best way to ensure that your company's RFID implementation will be a success is to involve key business and IT members.
By Doug Harvel
Aug 16, 2015

As you search for a radio frequency identification tag and label supplier, many things can go wrong. A lot of businesses look at the RFID labels' cost and an RFID vendor's ability to deliver those labels to their customers and other vendors outside of the United States. These things should certainly be considered, but many other business items also need to be addressed.

First of all, you should have an RFID business partner instead of just hiring an RFID company to provide labels. To achieve the best return on your company's investment in RFID, you will need a partner to help you utilize the technology's benefits within your firm. I have always said that a company that implements RFID only as a need to continue doing business with other companies will never see an ROI.

When starting your company on the road to implementing RFID, consider the following:

Do not base your selection solely on price. With the increased use of RFID, you have to look at a supplier's ability to meet all of your needs, now and in the future. Remember that each vendor will be delivering RFID labels to other companies, too. Make sure the vendor will not have a supply breakdown, which could cause you problems. Ask for references and call them about the vendor's ability to deliver on its promises.

Assess the vendor's quality processes. Can the vendor guarantee 100 percent passable labels? When checking the references, make sure to ask about any quality problems that may have occurred—and, more importantly, what the company did to make things right. If you use an RFID technology supplier only as a vendor, then you can expect bumps in the road, but making that company a business partner means it will be there to correct any wrinkles in the process. It is a fact of life that at one point or another, there will be a production problem.

Have more than one RFID label supplier. With the increase in RFID usage, your company needs to ensure that if any problems arise, the supplier has a backup plan to meet your demands.

Make sure the vendor offers software solutions you can use. For many companies, this will not even be a point to consider. However, if your firm is like a number of others, it may be very important to know that any software solutions your vendor provides will work for you and integrate with your current software. The solution might be one that gives you the ability to print and encode an RFID label within your company, or you might require some software to perform your own quality checks. Involve your company's IT team to make sure that the software meets all requirements and can actually work as promised. Including your IT staff will also ensure that you are not sold vaporware (software that has not even been written), or require dedicated people to make it work.

Decide whether you need to have the RFID inlay integrated with a label. If cost is a key point, then examine your process to ascertain if you can use only the RFID inlay, instead of an inlay integrated with a label. For example, if your product is placed in a box or has an insert, can the inlay be placed on that insert or box? If so, this will help reduce your cost. Make sure that you encode the RFID inlay correctly, and refer to GS1's guidelines for doing so. If the package has the RFID logo and the inlay is encoded properly, it need not be combined with a UPC label. Most companies do not consider this, but it is a very good option for saving money, becoming RFID-compliant for your customer and reaping the internal benefits of ensuring that your inventory is correct.

Doug Harvel is an RFID consultant with more than 20 years' experience in a manufacturing and distribution environment using Manhattan Associates' WMS software, and more than 12 years of working with RFID. He is a former co-chair of the GS1 Serialization Team. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this article, please feel free to contact him at doug.harvel@gmail.com.

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