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Checkpoint Systems Launches EPC Numbering Service

The firm's Open EPC Number Management Solution, a standalone option for apparel manufacturers and retailers, is designed to simplify the process of deploying item-level EPC Gen 2 UHF tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 19, 2011Shrink-management and labeling-solutions firm Checkpoint Systems is offering an EPC number-management system that would provide retailers or suppliers in the apparel industry with serialized Electronic Product Code (EPC) numbers for the item-level tagging of their products. The Open EPC Number Management Solution enables users to purchase a one-year agreement for numbering services, consisting of access to Checkpoint's server that runs a cloud-based software application to provide users with EPC numbers.

"Number management and serialization [of EPC numbers for RFID tags] is one of the most difficult challenges end users face with regard to RFID," says Andrew Nathanson, the director of research operations at VDC Research. To create RFID tags to identify each apparel item in a factory, warehouse, distribution center or retail store, a company must encode thousands—or even millions—of tags, each with its own ID number. This number includes its Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)—a numbering scheme developed by standards organization GS1 to specify product type—to identify the SKU, as well as an additional number to identify the type of product within that SKU, sometimes the region in which it is being sold, and a serial number to differentiate that individual product from all others.

Checkpoint's Raj Jayaraman
End users have the option of utilizing a service bureau that offers tag services including not only number services, but also the encoding of inlays and labels, as well as the inlays and labels themselves—and, in some cases, printers and RFID readers.

As an alternative to hiring a service bureau, a business can employ an EPC number-management software solution. Of those end users polled by Nathanson, he says, "more than 75 percent use a service bureau" for tag-numbering services. Generally, he notes, EPC number-management software is not cheap, and requires some management and a software update on the part of an end user, while service bureaus can simply provide the serial numbers necessary for a specified number of tags.

Service bureaus often offer bundled packages, including the provision, encoding and application of inlays, though specific providers may sell the constituent services separately. For example, service bureau Avery Dennison Retail Information Services (RIS) offers numbering management, as well as RFID labels and encoding, according to Scott Jones, the company's marketing communications manager, but has customers that purchase some services from different vendors, which means they could, in fact, simply buy Avery Dennison RIS' number-management service.

Checkpoint Systems, however, is the first company to offer a service specifically focused on number management, says Alan Sherman, the firm's director of marketing. With Checkpoint's Open EPC Number Management Solution, he says, customers can select an "a la carte" solution. For example, RFID users can utilize those EPC numbers provided by Checkpoint, then obtain additional labeling services or products—such as the labels themselves, as well as printing or encoding—from other sources.

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