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Movie, Music Suppliers Opt for Simple RFID Compliance

Like several other Wal-Mart suppliers, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and Handleman Co. both chose to implement a slap-and-ship tagging system using epcSolutions' RFIDTagManager application.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 23, 2007This month, 300 Wal-Mart suppliers went live with RFID systems enabling them to tag cases and pallets of goods. In so doing, they joined 300 other suppliers that had already implemented the technology. All of these companies have had a variety of options before them for complying with the retailer's RFID mandate, but like many of them, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, in LaCrosse, Wisc., and Handleman Co., Troy, Mich., chose a slap-and-ship solution, applying RFID tags to cases of product leaving the facility bound for Wal-Mart's distribution centers or stores. What's more, they both chose to use the same slap-and-ship RFID software: epcSolutions' RFIDTagManager.

In fact, between 20 and 30 percent of suppliers that were brought under the mandate in 2006 used RFIDTagManager software, according to Kevin Kail, epcSolutions' chief executive officer—more than any other RFID solution. RFIDTagManager can be used either as a standalone slap-and-ship application for printing EPC-encoded RFID labels, or as a fully integrated application connected to a variety of back-end systems.

Kevin Kail
Echo Bridge, a distributor of movies on DVD, and Handleman, a supplier of music CDs, each send mixed-SKU cartons directly to Wal-Mart stores. Handleman's bar-code-based conveyor system can automatically divert boxes destined for Wal-Mart's RFID-enabled stores to an RFID tagging area, while Echo Bridge manually identifies boxes for RFID tagging. Both companies have implemented a slap-and-ship method to bring them into compliance with Wal-Mart, sparing them the high cost of purchasing more sophisticated solutions.

At its warehouse in LaCrosse, Echo Bridge packs each box with a variety of titles for shipment directly to Wal-Mart, says IT manager Brandon Richards. "We know what goes in them, and we wanted a simple system," he explains. Such a system allows warehouse employees to load a box with the DVDs according to a packing slip, then manually attach a preprinted RFID tag.

Echo Bridge sought an inexpensive solution that would be easy to install on its own. After beginning its search in the spring of 2006, the company selected RFIDTagManager in August, installed the software and two Zebra R110xi RFID printer-encoders, and tested the system on several small shipments before going live this month.

The company ships out about 600 RFID-tagged boxes per week to Wal-Mart stores, but does not yet tag the 900 other boxes destined each week for its additional customers, or for non-RFID-enabled Wal-Mart stores.

When an order is placed, Richards says, Echo Bridge prints a packing slip and shipping label, and encodes RFID labels according to Wal-Mart's specifications. The company prints and encodes 4-by-6-inch EPC Gen2 Zebra RFID labels for application to boxes and 4-by-2-inch RFID labels for application to store displays. It then gives the labels to warehouse employees, who attach the RFID labels to boxes and load them onto pallets, as per packing slip instructions.

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