SML Offers Sustainability With New Products

By Claire Swedberg

The company's new product family features a line of tags and labels known as Inspire, as well as its EcoHanger and EcoInspire products that are aimed at reducing RFID's carbon footprint by eliminating PET layers and making antennas environmentally friendly.

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As retail demand for UHF RFID traceability grows, along with requests for greater sustainability, SML is offering its tags and packaging products under a new brand name, Inspire, enabling it to better serve the needs of its customers. Meanwhile, the company’s EcoInspire brand is designed for sustainability, to make tags more ecofriendly on several fronts. SML has also launched its new EcoHangers, built from recycled chipboard, though the hangers do not come with RFID technology.

The passive UHF RFID and related products are intended to meet the demands of a growing market, says Lesley Suen, SML’s senior VP of corporate marketing. SML already offers software under its Clarity brand name, so Inspire serves as its corresponding tags and packaging brand name for customers seeking to use SML’s RFID or non-RFID labels and packaging for their own products.

SML Group is one of the largest providers of RFID labels to the retail market for item-level RFID tracking. It sells labels, as well as packaging—both RFID-enabled and non-RFID. However, Suen says, “We’ve never really branded the tag line before. We felt it would be beneficial to offer a branded line.” The company’s complete portfolio of RFID packaging and woven labels, care labels, trim accessories, hangtags, heat transfers and stickers will now be sold under the Inspire brand name.

In the meantime, the firm has also been engineering a more sustainable product to meet its customers’ needs. Many brands and retailers are already charged with making their own products more sustainable (such as having more environmentally conscious contents in their clothing or other products), and they have been seeking price labels and tags with a reduced carbon footprint as well.

The EcoInspire tags are being built without a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) layer, according to Dean Frew, SML’s CTO and senior VP of RFID solutions. In some cases, he says, they are also built with an alternative antenna technology, such as printed antennas or other non-metallic antennas. The EcoInspire product line may include recycled polyester, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper or organic cotton for sewn-in garment labels.

In addition, the firm is targeting manufacturing processes in order to reduce environmental impact. “We are focused on processes that reduce waste,” Frew states, and on creating sustainable or recyclable labels that are smaller in size and more effective than predecessor models.

The RFID labels offer a sustainability benefit for the company’s customers as well, Frew notes, since they make supply chains and inventory-management systems more efficient. “Even on the software side, using Clarity, we see users reduce their inventory by 10 percent,” he states, which reduces the transportation load. “There are significant sustainability benefits there.”

The company’s goal is to have fewer tags in landfills, and to make its own processes and facilities more sustainable. In an effort to increase sustainability in its own operations, SML has assigned officers to examine the energy consumption at each of its production facilities, and it has a senior executive responsible for sustainability on a company-wide scale. SML is currently sampling its EcoInspire products to customers—brands and retailers—and the system can be customized according to a particular application’s needs.

“We’ve been innovating for 30 years,” Suen says, and the new brand and ecofriendly line of products help the company to market those products, including RFID labels, as technology demands increase. “We needed to be able to create a broader way of talking about our innovation in that space,” he states, adding that the Inspire umbrella of products offers that opportunity.

SML opened a Retail Ideation Space earlier this year at its headquarters in Plano, Texas, including a Packaging & Tag Ideation Studio, at which users can work with the company to develop sustainable products such as labels and tags (see SML Opens Retail Ideation Space for Item-Level RFID) A similar facility was opened this month in Shanghai, China (see SML RFID Opens Retails Ideation Space in China). Another site in Corby, England, is slated to open in November.