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Kimberly-Clark Getting RFID Gen 2 Ready

After a series of tests, K-C has chosen the inlay it plans to use on shipments bound for Wal-Mart and other retailers using RFID.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 28, 2006Consumer packaged goods (CPG) maker and early RFID adopter Kimberly-Clark has chosen which EPC Gen 2 RFID smart labels it will use on shipments heading to Wal-Mart and other RFID-enabled retailers. After testing a variety of Gen 2 tags in its 5,000-square-foot Auto-ID Sensing Technologies Performance Test Center in Neenah, Wis., the company chose the AD-220 RFID Gen 2 inlay. Manufactured by Clinton, S.C.-based Avery Dennison RFID, the AD-220 inlays will be converted into shipping labels by RSI ID, an RFID inlay manufacturer and label converter located in Chula Vista, Calif.

K-C has not yet announced when it will begin placing the Gen 2 labels on shipments bound for Wal-Mart, but says it will soon begin. The company will not be the first Wal-Mart supplier to do so. In January of this year, Texas Instruments' Educational & Productivity Solutions (E&PS) division started sending product to Wal-Mart with Gen 2 tags (see Wal-Mart Shipments Get Gen 2 RFID Tags), and claims it has sent thousands of the labels since then.

Kimberly-Clark's Auto-ID Sensing Technologies group performs tests and makes RFID hardware recommendations for K-C's logistics division. Gary Clement, technology development manager for the Auto-ID Sensing Technologies group, says his team tested the Gen 2 tags in tandem with testing of Gen 2 interrogators. Last month, Kimberly-Clark announced its use of Alien's ALR-9800 RFID interrogator (reader), capable of reading and writing data to Gen 2 tags, in its RFID operations (see Kimberly-Clark Deploys Gen 2 Readers).

"We went through a similar process with our tag selection as we did with our readers," says Clement. "The Alien [ALR-9800] reader and the Avery tags were a good combination, and the Avery tags were optimal, based on performance and price."

Clement and his team evaluated seven separate tags, including inlays made with conventional etched copper antennas, as well as others utilizing etched aluminum antennas and those printed with conductive inks. (The AD-220 contains a printed antenna made with silver ink.)

The group designed the tests around the processes K-C uses to encode data to tags and then read the data to verify that each tag was still operational and encoded with accurate data. It also tested the readability of the tags on cases moving on a conveyor to simulate the receiving process used by Wal-Mart and other customers. The team also tested the readability of the tags as they passed by portal interrogators and other readers mounted on stretch-wrap machines.

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