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There's No Packaged Answer for RFID

Adding an RFID tag to a product's packaging requires careful designing, but there are things you can do to help ensure a favorable outcome.
By Pat King
Tags: Packaging
Jan 29, 2007There are enormous challenges inherent in adding an RFID tag to a product's packaging. An RFID inlay is a foreign device. Unlike bar codes, which can be incorporated directly into the printed materials of the package and have no inherent volume, RFID inlays have mass, volume and other characteristics that must be considered before being incorporated into a product.

That's not a simple task. Packaging design deals with form, fit, function and aesthetics. These elements constitute the basis for nearly all product packaging, and must be taken into account to create a package that attracts attention, provides appropriate container features and conveniences, has integrity and, finally, meets environmental requirements. The addition of an RFID inlay, therefore, is not a trivial matter and requires careful planning.

There are five rules to successfully designing a product or product package that incorporates RFID:

1. Know the need (Level 1, 2 or 3—see below).
2. Don't rely on outsourcing for leadership.
3. Work in multidisciplinary groups, and have a clear leader.
4. Consider this the creation of a new product, rather than the modification of an existing product.
5. Think strategically.

Although a real-world implementation could be a mixture of all three levels, this article will focus on each level separately.

Level 1 Implementations: Keep it Simple
The most basic need for packaging RFID could be "forced compliance." Meeting the requirements of a mandate for which only a small portion of the total number of a company's SKUs need to be RFID-enabled is an example of Level 1. At this level, the problem should not become a packaging design issue, but rather a supply chain logistics project. Do not waste the money on reengineering any product packages.

Many companies colloquially refer to this level as "slap and ship." The common sense is that any money spent beyond the most elemental requirements has been wasted. There are new and emerging standards (EPC, ISO, DOD and ATA), as well as university and commercial white papers that describe and solve packaging needs at this level in more than adequate detail. If you decide to outsource any of this, be warned: Third-party suppliers will try to extract additional revenue by overspecifying your needs. I highly recommend an employee or employee team provide the specification against which competitive bids are engaged.


Eugene Chang 2007-03-19 03:31:40 AM
Dr Patrick King to keynote at RFID World Asia 2007 (April) Dr Patrick King, Global Electronic Strategist for Michelin North America was recently honored by AIM global for his outstanding contributions to the application of automatic identification technologies. For most people, it is difficult to understand the true contributions of these individuals simply by reading the news releases. Meet Dr King in person, along with other renown leaders, at RFID World Asia where will be presenting the opening keynote address. Singapore, 24 - 26 April 2007. To find out more visit: http://www.terrapinn.com/2007/rfidwa_SG/

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