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Kimberly-Clark tests next generation RFID

14-Jun-2005

Kimberly-Clark says it has begun formal testing of Generation 2 Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) hardware for all its consumer goods operations on a global basis, reports Simon Pitman.

The company says that the new hardware provides a universal solution to RFID technology on a global basis, replacing numerous and incompatible systems with one system used worldwide.

The implementation of RFID systems has proved to be problematic for even the biggest companies, as the rapidly evolving technology continues to develop and progress.

 

Both the food industry and the cosmetics and personal care industries have been key proponents of the technology in the consumer goods sector, as many of the leading players race to conform with retailers requirements to comply with the technology.

 

The main problems in implementing the technology have become evident during the introduction of the technology at a grass roots level.

 

A recent study by ABI found that RFID manufacturers - many of them relatively new companies - don't understand retail; and many retailers don't understand how RFID can benefit them. This leaves them frustrated and slows down market adoption, the research company reported."There's no cookie-cutter approach to RFID," said ABI Research analyst Sara Shah.

 

In answer to the confusion, companies have been looking at ways to simplify the adoption of the system, which is why Kimberly-Clark has chosen to adopt a more universal system.

 

Cheryl Perkins, Kimberly-Clark's senior vice president and chief technical officer said: "This test will ensure we identify the most effective Generation 2 RFID hardware that, when employed, will increase our productivity through the streamlining of our supply chain management on a worldwide basis. In turn, this will provide customers with a winning, innovative solution that helps drive value for both of us."

 

The Generation 2 RFID hardware to be tested includes tags, readers, printers, and applicators. The tests, scheduled to begin July 6th at Kimberly-Clark's dedicated RFID research lab in Neenah, Wisconsin, will allow the company to determine which hardware is the most compatible with its conveyor, packing, logistics and shipping systems.

 

"Generation 2 RFID hardware has advanced greatly over the past few months, providing increased ranges in reading product tags, as well as a more consistent read rate of pallets and cases," said Mike O'Shea, Director of Kimberly-Clark's Auto-ID Sensing Technologies.

 

"We are one of the few end user companies that have the ability to thoroughly test this new generation of hardware in a real-world environment. It gives us the ability to determine which Generation 2 hardware will best serve Kimberly-Clark globally - whether installed in North America, Asia-Pacific or Europe."

 

Kimberly-Clark has created a dedicated 5,000 square-foot RFID research laboratory within its major production centre at Neenah, where a team of packaging engineers and information systems specialists have been developing RFID packaging solutions to test their compatibility across the company's range of personal care products. The facilities allow working retail conditions to be simulated and packaging integrity tested to the full against possible radio interference.

 

The laboratory is also currently testing technologies for the Wal-Mart, Target and Albertsons trials in the United States as well as focusing on European hardware, helping the company launch what should be a robust RFID trial with Metro in Germany and other major European retailers.

 

RFID technology uses tiny radio transponders, or tags, that can be attached to pallets and cases. RFID scanners can then be attached to loading docks, conveyors and portals to scan and transmit information about the product location anywhere in the world.

 

With the RFID market estimated to be worth $1.94 billion, market research firm IDTechEx indicates that massive growth is inevitable in the coming years and that by 2015 the industry will eventually be worth an estimated $25 billion.

 

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