DLA to Expand RFID Labeling with $8.5M Order

By Admin

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the US military's distribution arm, is taking delivery of more than 1,800 smart label printer/encoders to help it apply passive UHF RFID labels to inventory and shipments. The printer/encoders will be installed at 21 worldwide Defense Distribution Centers, which already have RFID readers in place.

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 6, 2008—The US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is in the midst of installing more than 1,800 new printer/encoders so it can expand its use of RFID to track military supply shipments. The DLA ordered 1,804 Gen2 UHF printer/encoders for delivery between January and April of this year according to Steve Lowry, executive vice president of Lowry Computer Products, which won a contract worth up to $8.5 million to supply the DLA printer/encoders and smart label media over five years.

The printer/encoders will be installed at 21 Defense Distribution Centers (DDCs) around the world. DDCs serve as distribution hubs for the US military, receiving supplies, warehousing them, and filling orders received from military bases. Several dozen buildings may comprise a single DDC. The newly ordered Printronix model SL4M printer/encoders and Lowry Smart Trac smart label media will be used to generate RFID labels for outbound shipments. They will also be used at receiving to create inventory labels for any inbound shipments that weren't labeled by the supplier according to the DoD's RFID shipment labeling standards. Steve Lowry could not estimate how many inbound shipments require RFID labels because suppliers don't provide them.

The DDCs already had RFID reader systems and some printer/encoders in place from a previous contract with another vendor (see RFID Deployment at DoD Completes First Phase). Lowry told RFID Update the new printer/encoders will be installed to replace bar code printers currently used to produce military shipping labels, and that the RFID smart labels will also include legacy bar code formats.

Lowry said he didn't know if the new printer/encoder implementation represented an acceleration of the Defense Department's (DoD) RFID efforts, but said there has been strong interest in the supplier compliance labeling solutions his company provides.

"I have seen a steep increase in interest for UID [a bar code compliance program] and RFID solutions for suppliers this year," he said.

The DoD's passive RFID systems are primarily used to track goods coming into and passing out of distribution centers. Goods in transit are tracked by the DoD's growing network of active RFID systems, which feature unattended readers at roadsides and other remote locations that record tagged objects that pass by (see Solar Power Helps RFID Track Anywhere Under the Sun). The five-year contract worth up to $8.5 million that Lowry won to provide printer/encoders and media is large relative to other DoD passive RFID contracts, but pales in comparison to the military's active RFID investments (see DoD Doubles Active RFID Spend to $425M).

See Lowry's announcement