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To Satisfy RFID Mandates, Normerica Uses Boxes With Embedded Tags

The boxes have EPC Gen 2 tags imbedded in their seams to simplify the process the company employs to ship cat litter to Wal-Mart Canada.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 31, 2008Normerica, a provider of cat litter and other products for pet dogs and cats, is among the first to use cardboard boxes with UHF Gen 2 RFID inlays embedded in them. In this way, the company can simply encode an RFID chip on each box destined for Wal-Mart Canada, thereby eliminating the step of attaching Electronic Product Code (EPC) labels to boxes.

To encode the boxes' RFID tags, the company is employing Impinj RFID interrogators mounted on custom-designed mobile carts provided by Ship2Save. The carts can be wheeled to a conveyor where Wal-Mart-bound products are being packed, thereby reducing the cost of building fixed readers at each conveyor.

Nomerica workers wheel an RFID-enabled cart to a station where Wal-Mart-destined products are being packed, thereby reducing the cost of installing an RFID reader at each conveyor.

The company began testing the system in May, at its plant in Brantford, Ontario. By the end of July, it was sending the products from manufacturing facilities in Brantford to Wal-Mart's RFID-enabled distribution center in Mississauga.

Normerica began researching RFID options when it was given a July 31 deadline for tagging shipments to Wal-Mart Canada's Mississauga DC. When the manufacturer attended a Wal-Mart Canada RFID information day in February, the company met with Ship2Save, according to Simon Than, Normerica's IT director. But, he adds, "We thought it would be great if we could avoid the actual tagging ourselves."

For the past seven years, Normerica has utilized custom boxes for its bagged kitty litter, provided by Krupack, which is owned by paper and wood products company Kruger. In 2007, Krupack's sister company, Hide-Pack, developed a method of integrating RFID inlays into boxes that doesn't slow box production, and partnered with Domino Integrated Solutions Group to market the system to box manufacturers (see Startup Says It Has Cost-Effective Means to RFID-Enable Packaging). Since early 2008, Krupack has been working with Hide-Pack and Domino to offer cardboard boxes with embedded RFID tags.

When Krupack notified Normerica that it offered such boxes, the pet products manufacturer began testing them in May 2008. "We then got back in touch with Ship2Save," Than says, "to explain the need for an encoding solution, with about two months' time left on the clock."

The boxes Krupack is providing have UPM Raflatac ShortDipole EPC Gen 2 inlays embedded in their joints—in the seams, where two sides of a box overlap and are glued together, explains Hide-Pack's VP and general manager, Paul De Blois. Krupack embeds the inlay in one seam at a corner of the box, then prints the EPC logo and Normerica company name, as well as a bar-coded stock-keeping unit (SKU) number and other text required by Wal-Mart, onto the box's exterior.

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