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Scalability Is Key to RFID Compliance

When working to meet RFID compliance mandates, it is important to implement a scalable solution that not only satisfies today's needs, but also allows for future growth.
By Mike Kuhno
Scalability Options
In considering system-design options to ensure efficient operation today and scalability for tomorrow, one should consider the following questions:

How are my labels applied today?
Typically, manual systems are sufficient for low-volume tagging. Automated tagging solutions are appropriate when tagging 2,000 items per day, and may be appropriate for lower volumes if labels must be located more accurately to ensure readability.
What is the present volume, and what will it be in the future?
Answering this question provides guidance on when it might be appropriate to implement different solutions or combinations of solutions.
What is the SKU mix?
The main consideration here is whether the production line is dedicated to running a single product, or if it handles multiple products. If it is running only a single product, then one can take a batch-processing approach and the line may be configured for that specific product. If a company is handling multiple products, then each product or carton must be uniquely identified by a bar-code scanner or the like to allow the system to differentiate among products.

Intelligent Slap and Ship: Many RFID systems may involve manual application of tags at start-up. Important factors to consider when designing a manual system include:

• Electronic Product Code (EPC) number management to ensure that the right data is programmed into the tag.
• Putting the right tag in the right location. The RFID system should indicate to the operator where to place the tag on specific products to ensure readability.
• Commissioning of product and pallet tags. The RFID system should be able to handle multiple tag form factors, and the ability to manage pallet and carton data.
• Production-reporting capabilities to indicate not only how much product is shipped, but also the system status.
• Integration into an existing IT system.

As volumes grow, automation may offer more cost-effective scalability. Key data inputs to consider when automating include:

• Application Speed—Auto-applicators are six to 10 times faster than manual application.
• Cost of Labor—Labor costs are considerably higher for manual application.
• Cost of Rejects—Typically, the potential for rejects increases as the number of manually applied tags increases.
• Cost of Improperly Placed Tags—Automated solutions consistently place tags where designed, while manual solutions cannot guarantee proper placement.

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