Fast Growing Tageos Opens U.S. RFID Production

By Claire Swedberg

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  • The new production facility is located in Fletcher, N.C.
  • By the end of 2024, the facility will have the capability to produce more than four billion units per year

Set in an industrial park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Tageos’ newly opened RFID plant is producing inlays 24-7. The converters and die-bonding machines are churning out two billion UHF RFID inlays destined to North American packaging and label companies, and solution providers. By the end of 2024 that yearly production rate will have doubled.

While the first inlays came off the line in December 2023, opening ceremonies made the site official on May 15. A day after the ribbon cutting, speeches and dignitary visits, I was able to come inside for a look, a chance to peer under the hood of RFID production.

I watched UHF RFID tags, with beefy aluminum antennas designed for ultra-long-range interrogation, coming off the line at high speed. The site takes minimum orders of five million for labels built for specific use cases: tracking the movement and location of retail products, pallets, industrial and military goods and office assets. Wherever the highly sensitive, long-range tags end up, they are designed to be read in challenging environments.

Origins in a Sustainability Vision

Officials noted there’s a lot of room for growth in the facility that Tageos refurbished from an auto-parts factory. By this upcoming December, the French company will be producing four billion tags per year, with the number continuing to grow, making it the largest RFID tag production facility in the U.S., according to Karin Fabri, chief marketing officer.

Tageos was built on the 2007 sustainable RFID vision of three French entrepreneurs.

Since it launched, the company’s growth has outpaced the RFID industry. In fact, in recent years the company has grown in capacity by more than 40 percent annually.

Today, Tageos is among the top three largest RFID inlay providers in the world, (along with Avery Dennison/Smartrac and Beontag) producing 9 billion units, including UHF, HF, and NFC tags. And while the company makes the majority of its products with standard material that includes PET plastic substrates, the portfolio includes its EOS Zero tags that are designed on paper to boost sustainability.

Tageos Meets an Outsized Demand

About a year ago, the company had been looking for sites to produce tags in China and in the U.S, to provide more local tag access in the Americas and Asia. The company opened a Guangzhou, China, facility in November 2023—similarly sized to the North Carolina site—while its original facility in Montpelier site is set to further increase its own capacity to meet the expanding needs of its global clientele.

The rising demand for RFID-enabled tickets and packaging from retailers is putting pressure on Tageos’ customers in the U.S as well as in other parts of the world. Many of these customers can’t afford supply chain delays when products such as RFID inlays are shipped from a distant part of the world.

And having a product made in America provides other benefits to Tageos’ customers as well. With new U.S. tariffs on Chinese semiconductors and components, that can mean “made in the U.S.” will have greater value yet to American customers, in lowered cost of the final product.

Filling Manufacturing Space in Fletcher

The new North Carolina facility operates in the former home of automotive company Continental, where that car-part and tire giant made hydraulic brake systems. When it left Fletcher in 2022, Continental took hundreds of jobs with it. To date, Tageos has added 68 employees to the community as it occupies about 60,000 square feet of that space, with the expectation of 100 more hires by end of year.

Staff members consist of field application engineers, sales, customer service, product management and production operators, said Chris Reese, Tageos’ chief technology officer. French trainers from Tageos’ Montpelier home base are completing several months onsite in the Fletcher facility, training local operators to work the specialized equipment.

Reese pointed out that it has the benefit of an experienced team: altogether, they have 117 years of experience in the RFID industry for inlay manufacturing, management and process engineering.

Fletcher itself is an RFID-centered city, home to Avery Dennison’s U.S. RFID offices as well as label company UPM Raflatac. In fact, Tageos chose Fletcher due to its proximity to many of the company’s customers—solution providers and label converters —as well as the local presence of universities and skilled workers in the high-tech environment.

UHF RFID Inlays Now, HF to Follow

Tageos’s production site is designed to accommodate visitors, so its clients (such as label manufacturers and service bureaus) can bring their own customers onsite to see the RFID inlay manufacturing in process. Tageos makes goods for label and solution providers rather than end users and doesn’t offer full solutions.

“We never compete with our customers,” Chris Hykin, Tageos’ U.S. operations general manager, said.

The new facility includes IC attachment lines, bonding, converting, and testing of dry, and some wet, inlays. Wet inlays are produced to include the adhesive so that users can simply peel and stick the tag. Dry inlays, on the other hand are intended to be built into third-party labels or tickets.

What is Being Produced in Fletcher, N.C.

Once tags complete bonding and testing, they are ready-to-use products that are then applied to merchandise or other items, typically encoded and printed in conjunction with a unique ID that links to data about that item, whether clothing, jewelry, consumer product, pharmaceutical or asset.

Multiple die-bonding machine (DBM) lines now occupy a small percentage of the wide production space, while the company intends to double the amount of equipment for this purpose in the coming months.

Initially, Tageos is making UHF RAIN RFID inlays that leverage ICs from leading chip suppliers such as Impinj and NXP as well as sensor chips. The facility will be producing 13.56 MHz HF tags, which are commonly used for library material management, and NFC tags for brand authentication and protection and customer engagement.

Sustainability Goals Gaining Traction

Although Matthieu Picon, Laurent Delaby and Nicolas Jacquemin founded Tageos with a vision of sustainable RFID technology, their company has boosted its market share, mostly with standard PET inlays.

With sustainable tags still somewhat higher in cost than traditional plastic versions, demand for more environmentally friendly tags wasn’t there, in the early years. They haven’t lost track of their initial goals, however, the company said, as the demand for 100 percent plastic-free, paper-based products continues to rise.

“Entrepreneurs can get locked in on a vision they believe in and stay on that mission,” said Hykin.

Quality, Innovation Key to Success

One example is the EOS Zero paper tag family. These eco-tags can be produced at the Fletcher site as well, and they serve as part of the company’s initial sustainability goal. In fact, Tageos officials expect to see a reduction in Tageos’ own carbon footprint of 58 percent by 2032, and a zero carbon footprint by 2050. That’s based on a variety of measures now underway, such as reuse of materials, waste reduction programs, recyclable paper substrates, solar power and recycling of aluminum antennas in the tags.

Being the largest RFID tag producer in the world is not entirely the company’s goal, Hykin said; most important, it is about the quality of its products and new innovations.

“Our vision for growth is that we’re happy to stay customer focused, to drive and enable new applications and new RFID deployments, whatever size is required for that,” he said.

Innovations in Sensor Tags

Hykin pointed to the specialty sensors tags that can measure conditions and transmit that data when interrogated over the air. Those EOS 840 sensor inlays (using IC’s from Asygn) include strain, ambient light, temperature and humidity measurements.

The tags’ sensing abilities can be employed in cold chain logistics, construction, and other applications. Use of a light detection tag, for instance, could identify when a container was opened.

Meeting Demand in North America

By providing its entire family of products at the Fletcher site, Tageos expects to meet evolving demands for customers based in the Americas, Hykin said. Many of these companies in the U.S. and neighboring countries—that make labels and packaging—can not afford supply chain issues when it comes to accessing RFID inlays.

And while some manufacturers have been pursuing lower labor costs by moving production to Asia or other parts of the world, that’s not a concern for Tageos. With the increase of efficiency in the equipment, labor rates are not the issue, instead the aim to be the company that can make the highest quality product, fastest.

“That’s the bet we’ve made as a company. And the fact that we are outpacing the growth of the industry, that means our customers prefer that as well. Demand has been consistent, we have a growth plan that is really strong,” Hykin said.

RFID’s Future Looks Bright

The future for product identification is RFID, Hykin speculated. Anywhere there’s a barcode today, there will be an RFID tag.

“The level of data you can get from RFID is exponentially higher than what you can get with a barcode,” he said, with additional data becoming more compelling with artificial intelligence (AI).

While the large retailers were the first to seek RFID, more companies from other segments too are now joining their ranks, according to Tageos’ customers.

“Computing power with AI allows you to make better decisions. It’s a value proposition,” said Hykin.

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