Home Internet of Things Aerospace Apparel Energy Defense Health Care Logistics Manufacturing Retail

Access This Premium Content

Options To Access This Article:

What Subscribers Are Saying

  • "Probably the best investment I've ever made."
    Steve Meizlish, President & CEO, MeizCorp Services, Inc.
  • "I have found that RFID Journal provides an objective viewpoint of RFID. It you are looking for a resource that provides insights as to the application and implications of deploying RFID, RFID Journal will meet your needs, It gives you a broad perspective of RFID, beyond the retail supply chain."
    Mike O'Shea, Director of Corporate AutoID/RFID Strategies & Technologies, Kimberly-Clark Corp.
  • "No other source provides the consistent value-added insight that Mark Robert and his staff do. In a world dominated by press release after press release, RFID Journal is developing as the one place to go to make the most sense out of the present and future of RFID in commerce."
    Bob Hurley, Project Leader for RFID, Bayer HealthCare's Consumer Care Division
  • "RFID Journal is the one go-to source for information on the latest in RFID technology."
    Bruce Keim, Director, Hewlett-Packard
  • "RFID Journal is the only source I need to keep up to the minute with the happenings in the RFID world."
    Blair Hawley, VP of Supply Chain, Remington Products Company

One RFID Tag From Cradle to Grave

Consumer electronics manufacturers, distributors and retailers are working toward the day when life-cycle tracking of computers, TVs and other electronic products will deliver benefits for both businesses and consumers.
By Elizabeth Wasserman
Apr 01, 2008—When Toshiba Europe started using radio frequency identification technology to track laptop computers at its plant in Regensburg, Germany, the company saw immediate results. Since 2006, the European subsidiary of Japan-based Toshiba has been applying passive RFID tags to the accessory boxes packed with each laptop on the production line, and reading the tags automatically as pallets are moved past RFID interrogators into the warehouse to await shipment to retailers. Previously, it took workers 90 seconds to hand-scan the bar code on each laptop on a pallet. With RFID, the time spent inventorying each pallet has been cut to three seconds.

By speeding up the process, RFID helped Toshiba Europe overcome a bottleneck at the plant and ultimately increase output from 9,500 to 17,300 laptops per day. The cost of scanning each pallet was reduced from 35 cents to 21 cents-saving Toshiba $470,000 last year alone. The RFID initiative also reduced loss and theft of products, and helped Toshiba ensure accuracy of shipments to its customers.

But the benefits of item-level tagging stop when the pallets leave the warehouse, says Andreas Unterbusch, Toshiba TEC's RFID project manager. While some European electronics retailers-such as Media Markt and Saturn, both owned by German retail giant Metro-want suppliers to RFID-tag goods, those retail chains are currently reading RFID tags only on cases and pallets. "Toshiba is prepared [for item-level tagging], and this could be used by anybody asking for that," Unterbusch says. "But nobody is asking for that at the moment."

The consumer electronics industry is perhaps uniquely suited to item-level tracking. Unlike the consumer packaged goods industry-which produces a lot of low-priced goods, such as toilet paper, detergent and disposable razors-many consumer electronics devices carry high price tags. The products often have a limited shelf life, meaning they can become obsolete quickly due to the development of newer, cheaper products. RFID could help retailers ensure that hot items are on store shelves when prices are high, and help manufacturers manage inventory and better meet demand. From $300 video game consoles to $1,000 computers and $4,000 flat-panel TVs, the value of such items often justifies the cost of item-level RFID tags-even if those tags run $1 or $2 apiece.

In fact, many stakeholders in the consumer electronics industry foresee a day when electronic items will be RFID-tagged during production, tracked through delivery to retailers, tracked in-store to make sure products are stocked on the shelves, and updated with warranty and repair information to provide a virtual pedigree on each device, says Michael Liard, research director for RFID & contactless at ABI Research. Eventually, RFID tags could even help ensure that manufacturers comply with regulatory mandates for disposal of toxic substances (many electronic products contain lead, mercury and other hazardous substances), such as the European Union's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, which went into effect in 2003.

"With RFID technologies implemented in the consumer electronics industry, all players in the industry-manufacturers, logistics service providers, retailers, service and maintenance operators, recycle operators, and most importantly consumers-will have better visibility of products during the product life cycle," says Tatsuya Yoshimura, Sony's RFID research and promotion manager, who co-chairs EPCglobal's Consumer Electronics Industry Action Group (CEIAG). "RFID technology will facilitate collaboration among CE manufacturers and their supply-chain partners, leading to higher profitability and improved productivity."

EPCglobal's CEIAG, a group of electronics manufacturers, distributors and retailers and RFID vendors, is now working to bridge the divide between the separate paths that manufacturers and retailers have taken with RFID to date. CEIAG members-including Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Nokia, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, UPM Raflatac and Wal-Mart-started meeting in August 2007 to begin an expected two-year process aimed at getting industry participants to agree on technology standards to make that vision of life-cycle tracking for computers, TVs and other electronics goods a reality. Several members of the group are pushing for standardization on a passive RFID tag with expanded memory and read/write capability so that product serial numbers and repair and warranty information can be stored on each item, says Gay Whitney, standards director for EPCglobal.

"We're talking about full product life-cycle management-from the time raw materials are contracted, all the way to when the electronic [device] arrives in the home," Whitney says. Among the challenges for item-level tagging on electronics is convincing the consumer that there is a benefit to having the tag remain on the item, and convincing manufacturers, distributors and retailers to share data. "It's still a little futuristic," Whitney says, "but it's not that far off."
To continue reading this article, please log in or choose a purchase option.

Option 1: Become a Premium Member.

One-year subscription, unlimited access to Premium Content: $189

Gain access to all of our premium content and receive 10% off RFID Reports and RFID Events!

Option 2: Purchase access to this specific article.

This article contains 3,175 words and 5 pages. Purchase Price: $19.99

Upgrade now, and you'll get immediate access to:

  • Case Studies

    Our in-dept case-study articles show you, step by step, how early adopters assessed the business case for an application, piloted it and rolled out the technology.

    Free Sample: How Cognizant Cut Costs by Deploying RFID to Track IT Assets

  • Best Practices

    The best way to avoid pitfalls is to know what best practices early adopters have already established. Our best practices have helped hundreds of companies do just that.

  • How-To Articles

    Don’t waste time trying to figure out how to RFID-enable a forklift, or deciding whether to use fixed or mobile readers. Our how-to articles provide practical advice and reliable answers to many implementation questions.

  • Features

    These informative articles focus on adoption issues, standards and other important trends in the RFID industry.

    Free Sample: Europe Is Rolling Out RFID

  • Magazine Articles

    All RFID Journal Premium Subscribers receive our bimonthly RFID Journal print magazine at no extra cost, and also have access to the complete online archive of magazine articles from past years.

Become a member today!

RFID Journal LIVE! RFID in Health Care LIVE! LatAm LIVE! Brasil LIVE! Europe RFID Connect Virtual Events RFID Journal Awards Webinars Presentations