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Startup Says It Has Cost-Effective Means to RFID-Enable Packaging

Hide-Pack's system embeds an RFID inlay into the joint of a box during manufacturing, protecting the tag and eliminating the need for an externally applied RFID label.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 13, 2007For years, box manufacturers have been searching for a means of cost-effectively embedding RFID tags into packaging. Doing so could provide a significant competitive advantage in that industry by providing a streamlined means for consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers to meet the RFID-tagging requirements issued by their customers—namely, retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

Hide-Pack, a packaging solutions startup based in Montreal, claims it has discovered a method of integrating RFID inlays into boxes that doesn't slow box production and can reduce the costs for CPG manufacturers to RFID-enable the cases of goods they sell. Furthermore, the company says its process operates in a manner that was previously thought to be a bad idea: by placing the inlay inside a box joint.

The Hide-Pack system applies an RFID inlay to the flap used to create a box's joint.
The joint of a box—the seam, where two sides of the box overlap and join together—is crucial to a box's physical integrity (its strength). Box-making 101 teaches that nothing but adhesive or staples should be inside this seam because foreign objects could hamper the box's compression ratio, or the number of boxes (of the same size and strength) that can safely be stacked. But taking this counter-intuitive approach, Hide-Pack found that placing an RFID inlay within the joint not only fails to degrade box strength, it also provides a means of protecting the inlay from dirt, moisture and abuse. Moreover, it also provides the inlay with a buffer (formed by the two layers of corrugate between which the inlay is sandwiched) that improves its readability when the box is filled with RF-interfering materials, such as water or metal.

To bring this patent-pending approach to market, Hide-Pack has partnered with Domino Integrated Solutions Group (Domino IGS), a provider of auto-ID technologies and data-integration services for the packaging industry. Domino says it will provide the Hide-Pack solution—which includes the company's inlay-insertion technology, an RFID inlay reader and applicator, on-site education, feasibility studies, and pilot and project design, as well as full integration and implementation services—to box manufacturers, for approximately $150,000 per packaging line.

Paul de Blois, Hide-Pack's VP and general manager, says CPG manufacturers under tagging requirements stand to realize significant cost savings by purchasing RFID-enabled packaging from box makers rather than adding RFID-enabled labels themselves prior to shipping goods to retailers. The bare RFID inlay that the Hide-Pack system would embed into a box is 35 percent cheaper, de Blois explains, than an RFID label a CPG manufacturer might currently place on the outside of a box.

In addition, de Blois adds, CPG companies could lower their infrastructure costs by using Hide-Pack cases since they would not need to purchase RFID printer-encoders and label applicators. Other benefits companies could realize by using RFID-enabled boxes, de Blois says, include the ability to begin tracking and tracing products earlier in the supply chain, and integrating RFID data into a company's transportation and warehouse management systems.

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