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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
With the inlay selected, Clement and his team turned their attention to choosing a label converter. "We went through a list of converters and requested pricing and support," Clement explains. "We picked RSI because it provides an automated pick-and-replace system for bad tags. We feel most ensured that it will remove the bad tags."

After RSI converts RFID inlays into labels, it uses an automated system to confirm that the inlays are functional. The labels are run through a machine using an RFID interrogator to read each inlay. If the device senses the transponder's ID, encoded by the inlay manufacturer, it approves the label. If, however, the reader cannot detect the ID, the machine removes the label, replacing it with another label containing a functioning inlay.

"They [the Kimberly-Clark team] made a very extensive visit of our testing capabilities," says RSI's CEO, Wolf Bielas. RSI's vice president of sales and marketing, Tawnya Clark, notes that her company's ability to create customized smart labels—with specific antenna configurations and label sizes based on a customer's requirements—also made it a strong candidate. While K-C will not initially be using customized Gen 2 labels, Clark says the firm wants to retain the option of doing so for hard-to-tag products that cause RF interference.

Kimberly-Clark put out a call to a number of inlay manufacturers at the end of March 2005, requesting quantities of 5,000 Gen 2 tags for testing. The deadline for submitting the tags was July 2005. George Reynolds, vice president of sales and marketing at Avery Dennison RFID, says his company was the first to meet this deadline. "We provided a roll of 5,000 tags—not hand-made products, but mass-made, which was important," he says. "We showed we could provide production quantities."

Clement is pleased with the Gen 2 label and inlay selection. "So far, so good," he says. "We've run several hundred of the labels through tests so far and have had no failures. That's darn good, especially compared to Gen 1."

Kimberly-Clark is not releasing the quantity of labels and inlays it is ordering, nor the price or length of contract. In September, however, Avery Dennison RFID announced pricing for its AD-220 Gen 2 inlay at 7.9 cents apiece in quantities of 1 million. Moreover, RSI said it was selling its 4-by-6-inch printable smart labels with embedded EPC Gen 2 inlays for 14.9 each in the same quantities (see Avery Dennison, RSI ID Lower Price Bar).

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