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NCR Tags Its Own Shipments

Using its own RFID technology, point-of-sale equipment provider NCR has begun tagging cartons and pallets of the electronic products it ships to a global retailer.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 18, 2007Using its own RFID technology, NCR has begun tagging cartons and pallets of its electronic products as they are shipped out of its Atlanta warehouse, destined for a global retailer.

NCR sells point-of-sale terminals, payment kiosks, self-serve point-of-sale equipment and ATMs to the retail market. At its Atlanta customer-fulfillment center, the company receives component parts for various terminals. These devices are assembled, tested, packed and shipped to customers, says Donna A. Wright, vice president and general manager at NCR's Automatic Identification and Data Collection (AIDC) Solutions Group.

Donna A. Wright
For this specific retail customer, which Wright declines to name, NCR ships some products to the retailer's distribution centers and others directly to its stores. In either case, the retailer has asked that the cartons and pallets be tagged so it can track when the items arrive at the dock doors, and where they go from there, prior to installation at the store. NCR does not have details regarding how the tracking is being done, but suggests the retailer might read tags as the cartons arrive at the distribution center, and again at the store's dock doors, as well as when workers open the boxes to install the devices. "They may also be reading the tag when the carton packaging materials are disposed or trashed," Wright says. All of these practices would give the retailer more visibility into a shipment's location prior to installation, as well as when that installation took place.

In April of 2006, NCR acquired IDVelocity, a provider of AIDC software solutions for data collection from bar-code, RFID, biometric and other sources. For this particular implementation, NCR used IDVelocity's software and NCR's own TransitionWorks Retail RFID Compliance integration services. The system was fully deployed in April of this year.

Sections of the Atlanta warehouse are dedicated to shipments destined for specific customers. For the retailer that has requested tagged equipment, NCR workers pack items and use a Zebra printer to encode EPC Gen 2 RFID labels. Each label includes a bar code in case its RFID tag cannot be read. NCR personnel use a handheld Motorola RFID interrogator to take a validation read of the label's tag, as well as dock-door portal readers (also from Motorola) with an IP connection to NCR's database.

NCR is employing Oracle ERP for its warehouse-management software, with the shipment tag reads archived in a separate SQL server database. That software stores RFID numbers, the items on each pallet, descriptions of those items and ship-to data, which NCR can then use for shipment reports and history-taking. "This is in case the retailer requires information concerning the EPC RFID-encoded information, date or time read," Wright explains. "Or, if [a] retailer says [a] tag could not be read, we would prove that we did read the tag before shipping."

Eventually, Wright says, NCR may integrate the RFID and ERP systems. This integration would eliminate errors and labor hours, she explains, by automating the shipment orders and advance shipment notices, as well as catching missing or incorrect RFID tags as workers load shipments through the dock doors. Most immediately, she states, NCR is likely to focus on providing similar labeling systems to its other fulfillment centers throughout the country, and eventually on tagging cartons and pallets containing equipment destined for other RFID-enabled retailers, thus fulfilling a goal the company first announced in 2005 (see NCR to Begin Tagging Its Hardware).
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