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HP Takes RFID End to End

The manufacturer of PCs and peripherals is tagging printers at a Brazilian factory and tracking them through shipping and reverse logistics.
By Mark Roberti
Feb 28, 2006Hewlett-Packard (HP) revealed that it is tagging printers as they are being manufactured at a facility in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and tracking the units through production and distribution to customers throughout South America. The tags in the printers will also be used to identify individual units that have been returned, repaired or recycled.

"The Brazil market is small enough for us to do everything end to end without spending gazillions of dollars," said Didier Chenneveau, VP of operations for Hewlett-Packard. "We're RFID-enabling the complete supply chain, including manufacturing, distribution, repair, reverse logistics and recycling."

HP's Didier Chenneveau
Speaking at last week's AIM Global Annual Showcase in Newport Beach, Calif., Chenneveau said HP would like to tag all printers sold in the United States—as opposed to tagging the cardboard boxes in which the printers are packaged—because there are more benefits for HP, such as the ability to trace a defective printer back to the source and correct the problem.

At the start of the manufacturing line in the Brazilian factory, a Philips Gen 1 UHF RFID tag is placed on the printer's exterior plastic case. As the printer is assembled, data is written to the tag. For instance, when an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) is installed, its serial number is written to the tag. "We're recording the DNA of the unit as we make it," said Chenneveau.

After the device's interior components have been assembled and tested, the results of the test are written to the tag. If the components fail, the printer is taken off the production line and examined, while passing printers are routed to product completion, where HP writes the country of destination to the tag. This is so the manufacturer can make sure it ships the units to the proper countries.

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