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Weyerhaeuser Offers High-Volume Source Tagging, But Demand Still Low

The company is supplying pretagged cardboard boxes to several of its customers, and plans to license its process for manufacturing RFID-tagged cardboard to International Paper and other firms.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
The reasons, Weyerhaeuser believes, that its source-tagging offering isn't making a bigger splash among end users are twofold, and related: volume and price First, most end users have not yet ramped up their commitment to tagging cases to such a volume that would justify using the source-tagging option. That lack of demand for large volumes of tags leads to the second hurdle: tag costs. Weyerhauser's customers' current need for tagged corrugate does not maximize its label applicator's capacity, so customers pay more for the tagging service than they would if demand for that service were to increase.

"We're running between 600 and 1,000 feet [of corrugate] per minute," McCann says, "depending on [the] size of [the] box and the tag placement on the box." The number varies depending on box size, but the application process accommodates box widths ranging from 8 inches to 48 inches. "Most of our potential RFID customers are only meeting bare RFID-tagging minimums [per mandates] right now," she says. "They aren't tagging enough volume for this to make sense."

"Tags still aren't as cost-effective as we'd like," McCann says, though she contends that large companies anticipating a speedy ramp-up of their RFID initiatives would be smart to go with source-tagged boxes. "It can lower costs for a customer because it means they don't have to put RFID label printer-encoders and applicators throughout their operations. Look at a large consumer packaged goods manufacturer. They can't afford to have printer-encoder-applicators on every single packaging line."

As for creating RFID tags that can be printed, using non-silicon chips and metallic-ink antennas, McCann says Weyerhaeuser hopes to have a fully functional 13.56 MHz passive inlay available by the end of the year.

McCann will be speaking about source tagging at next week's RFID Journal LIVE! conference in Las Vegas, during the RFID in Packaging and Labeling preconference seminar being held on Wed., April 16.

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