Archive for March, 2011

Smartrac posts record year with sales of EUR 180M; expects more strong growth for 2011

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

It’s becoming clear just how strong a year 2010 was for the RFID sector. It’s been widely reported that tag manufactures couldn’t keep up with demand in 2010, as the economy rebounded and companies began implementing RFID trials and production deployments in earnest.

Publicly traded Smartrac N.V., a manufacturer of RFID transponders based in Amsterdam, shed some light on the industry growth when it reported its financial figures for fiscal 2010 earlier today.

The firm grew sales by a robust 41 percent in 2010, reaching EUR $180.1 million. The company expects more normalcy from the market this year – albeit still double digit growth – to push sales to EUR $200M.

“The year 2010 was an exceptional one for SMARTRAC,” said said Dr. Christian Fischer in a release. “We have accomplished several strategic milestones and shaped the foundations for the future of our company,” said Dr. Christian Fischer. “However, we are also aware of the fact that certain challenges remained unsolved in 2010 and will require our full attention in 2011. For 2011, we expected Group sales to grow to EUR 200 million. In terms of profitability, we are working hard to achieve Group EBITDA margins which come back closer to past levels.”

Click here to view the full earnings report.

 

High memory RFID tags allow iphone-like apps

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Sophisticated users of RFID technology are beginning to embrace the concept of running applications on high memory RFID tags, instead of just storing information. Read about this and other ways that the aerospace and auto industry are using high memory tags in this week’s issue of RFID 24-7.

According to Tego CEO Tim Butler:  “The other area where high memory tags are just scratching the surface is with the concept of putting applications onto the tags. With the additional memory of Tego’s tags, enterprises could use the same model available today on an iphone to have downloadable apps.”

NY Times: Improved global supply chain visibility helps firms to better deal with crisis in Japan

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The unfortunate disaster in Japan is serving as a major test for the global supply chain. As the world’s third largest economy, Japan produces millions of parts for the electronics, automotive and computer industries. Lots of that production is on hold following this month’s earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis.

It’ still too early to gauge how supply chains around the world will be impacted by the ongoing crisis, but an article in the New York Times over the weekend provides some outstanding insight into how companies are dealing with potential supply shortages.

The article credits RFID and other technologies as providing much greater supply chain visibility than in previous supply chain disruptions:

From the article:

The ability to manage these complex networks, experts say, has become possible because of technology — Internet communications, RFID tags and sensors attached to valued parts, and sophisticated software for tracking and orchestrating the flow of goods worldwide.

That geographic and technological evolution, in theory, should make adapting to the disaster in Japan easier for corporate supply chains.

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

RFID speeds time to market for drugs by simplifying clinical trial process

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

RFID usage is exploding in all industries. The technology has the ability to revolutionize the retail industry, manufacturers have real-time visibility into production facilities around the globe, and all kinds of social media apps are being developed that utilize RFID.

But the biggest sweet spot for RFID lies in the medical and pharmaceutical sector. Sure, it’s cool to use RFID to retrieve pricing information about a product on the retail floor and to buy that product without standing in long lines. It’s fun to track your ski runs at Vail through social media apps like EpicMix. But the solutions being developed for pharma and healthcare can save lives. What’s more intriguing than that?

This week’s issue examines how RFID is expediting drug development by simplifying the clinical trial process.

“It’s a burgeoning area because one small error in their data could throw off the entire product roadmap for getting a product into production and accepted by the FDA,” says Drew Nathanson, director of research operations at VDC Research. “Drug companies have billions invested in these products, so there is a lot at stake.”

By the time a drug reaches the stage where it goes before the FDA approval, drug companies may have invested hundreds of millions — if not billions — into the development of the drug. It’s essential to have all record keeping and trial results in impeccable order when drug development reaches the approval stage. But that doesn’t always happen. To date, nearly all clinical trials have relied on bar coding to track results during each step of the trial. Like all industries, that can lead to slowed or flawed data collection and inaccurate results.

Enter RFID for clinical trials, which can not only collect data quicker and more accurately, but also track and trace samples from around the globe as they move through the clinical trial process. Joe Pleshek, CEO of Madison, Wisc.-based Terso Solutions, says that the last six months have seen a flurry of customers interested in RFID-enabled solutions for use in clinical trials. Terso produces temperature controlled cabinets and other products that can be used in those applications.

T.S. Rangarajan, an RFID expert and a principal consultant with Tata Consultancy Services, worked with a major provider of clinical trials from Switzerland on a pilot to examine the advantages of RFID technology instead of bar codes. Rangarajan notes that trial results need to be documented during each stage of the complicated trial process, meaning that drug firms must rely on numerous bar code reads, which are often inaccurate. For example, in a lab environment, bar codes can become smudged and be unreadable. Or, if the trial drug requires a temperature sensitive environment, bar codes might be unreadable because of frost or condensation build-up from refrigeration.

“Using bar codes was a very manual and tedious process for the type of data collection they needed,” he says. “The primary reason they were contemplating the use of RFID was because of the obvious need for frequent verification of the bar code at each stage during the trials.”

In addition, samples collected in the field have a very short shelf life, and typically need to be processed within 24 to 48 hours of arrival. Going beyond that window can jeopardize the authenticity of the clinical trial.

“There is generally very little time to process the sample within the lab,” says Rangarajan. “They wanted to avoid the delays that were happening with bar code scanning by allowing the samples to reach the lab, let the scanners read them, and move on.”

It’s also crucial for clinical trial providers to possess a complete paper trail (or in this case, an electronic trail) for the samples they are processing in case they are audited. Clinical trials are monitored very closely in the U.S. and in Europe, “so they wanted a fool proof method of associating samples with the people from who they were collected because of the legal issues associated with compliance,” says Rangarajan.

In the event of an audit, RFID would allow the clinical trial provider to quickly prove where the samples came from and where they were processed, and also to account for samples that were taken but were not tested or processed. That’s critical considering that some clinical trials gather data from tests that are conducted around the world, in urban centers and more remote rural areas.

RFID technology can also be beneficial when the drug being tested requires a temperature controlled environment. RFID and sensor technology can alert clinical trial providers if a certain temperature range has been violated, therefore sending a red flag that the sample might need to be discarded. Without RFID, that sample could be entered into the collected data and skew the results.

“The biggest benefit they gain is having the visibility of the sample and that its current status can be seen from anywhere in the world,” says Rangarajan. “They can actually can see where a particular sample is, just like how you track your FedEx package today. If you can track a sample through its lifecycle, that gives confidence to the drug company that the samples are being tested correctly.”

Article provides an inside look at retailer Gerry Weber’s RFID initiative

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Retail leaders from Walmart and Macys who make up the Item Level RFID Initiative are on record that item level tagging at the retail level is now a customer-driven initiative. Despite the operational gains and enhanced revenues that retailers gain from item level RFID, the customer is the top priority.

That’s true with overseas retailer Gerry Weber as well. A trailblazer in RFID technology, the retailer is achieving inventory accuracy values of 99-plus percent. A recent article in the European trade press outlines some of the chain’s biggest successes with RFID.

Among the gains are lower shrinkage and higher transparency, more sales, lower security costs and faster goods in.

Click here to view RFID 24-7’s previous coverage of the Item Level RFID initiative.

From the article:

Lower shrinkage, higher transparency: All items wholesaled to other retailers—accounting for 80 percent of Gerry Weber’s business—are RFID-scanned after being boxed. This 100 percent accurate reconciliation of what’s in the box with what’s on the manifest has reduced discrepancies in customer orders to zero, as it provides ironclad proof of contents. The process of redistributing merchandise between stores is also greatly accelerated. On the other end of the supply chain, total capture of delivery information has resulted in very low shrinkage, thanks to high inventory transparency and reconciliation.

Faster goods in: When goods come into the store, most retailers do manual checks and scan individual barcodes into the store’s inventory management system. This can take hours or days. With RFID, you can scan each box with a handset, unpack it and get the inventory out on the floor. Returns processes will also be greatly accelerated.

What happened to RFID and CPG?

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Supply Chain Digest’s Dan Gilmore ran a very insightful piece on the plight of RFID in the CPG space last week. Gilmore traced the euphoria surrounding CPG and EPC tagging that started in earnest back in 2003. While there were very successful pilots run by the likes of Gillette and P&G at major retailers like CVS and Walgreens — mostly geared around the tagging of promotional and sale items at point-of-sale islands — the real value of RFID in the CPG to retail value chain has not been realized.

Granted, the industry benefitted greatly from the CPG false start; according to the article, more than $1 billion was invested in RFID technology from the early Walmart initiatives, and clearly the item level tagging in apparel that is on its way to becoming ubiquitous would not be at the level it is today without the CPG trails.

From the SCD story:

While RFID progresses and even thrives in other segments, in the CPG to retail value chain EPC tagging is simply stopped in its tracks. WalMart is doing nothing there, now focused on apparel programs. A P&G spokesperson told me this week that as far as he knows, Procter & Gamble has no active RFID projects or pilots currently underway – this from a company that was leading the charge not that many years ago, and had at one point I believe at least 20 people working on RFID. P&G, as just one example, developed what became the industry standard requirements document for RFID-capable fork trucks. Even the UK’s Tesco stores and Germany’s Metro chain, which continued ahead after WalMart had clearly started to bail, have done nothing new for about three years.

The difference between 80% reads and 99.9% accuracy

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Without 99.9% accuracy, your RFID deployment is destined for failure. Check out ODIN’s video now to learn the difference between 80 percent read accuracy and 99.9 percent (the difference can be hair raising – but don’t expect too much high level info here).

Grocers target RFID to help eliminate spoilage in perishable food chain

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

As fuel costs continue to rise, transporting perishable food items becomes more expensive. And as water supplies continue to diminish, growing crops becomes more challenging. Those are two reasons why it’s so important to address the food spoilage problems that plague the perishable foods cold supply chain, and one reason why President Obama recently signed the Food Safety Modernization Act.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), over half of the food produced globally is lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain.

With that in mind, the food cold supply chain is turning to RFID-based solutions that can monitor temperature and expiration dates. In November, Intelleflex launched on-demand, product-level monitoring system for perishable foods and the pharmaceutical cold chain.

The Intelleflex solution was recently featured in a news segment by WKGO-TV, an affiliate of ABC News. Click here to watch the video.

A blurb from the news report:

By most accounts, one-third of all fruits and vegetables are discarded somewhere between the field and the customer because it is so difficult to monitor the shelf life of produce. A temperature variation of just 2 degrees during shipment can cut 4 days off the life of berries and bananas. Current technology monitors only a whole truck, regardless of which side travels in the sun or other factors. This technology, on the other hand, records what happens to every pallet, every minute, every step of the way.

Peter Mehring, CEO of Santa Clara’s Intelleflex says, “We collect a month of temperature data in one tag that can be quickly be read out and be displayed on our handheld readers.”

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s coverage on how RFID is being used in agriculture.

Wisconsin farmers surpass one million mark for livestock tagging

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Tracking animals with RFID continues to explode, especially in Wisconsin, where dairy farmers recently tagged their one-millionth cow.

By comparison, only 138,260 RFID tags had been recorded for tracking animals two years ago. By March 2009, that number had grown to 405,134. According to the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, only 16 percent of the milking dairy herd in Wisconsin is identified by RFID, leaving room for massive growth.

“Wisconsin farmers have really stepped up to the plate when it comes to using RFID,” says Ben Brancel, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for the state of Wisconsin. “Using RFID improves traceability and opens doors to international markets.”

Animal tracking with RFID – tags are usually placed in the animal’s ear — is being driven by consumers who are more conscious of where their food comes from, as well as safety and food tracing initiatives. In addition, the agricultural industry is pressing for more traceability due to residue and disease issues.

For example, farmers saw significant benefits when TB-tests had to be conducted on a 3,000-cow herd that had been exposed by imported cattle. Brancel says that 360 animals an hour needed to be tested each hour to avoid disrupting the milking operation. If authorities had to manually read and record data for that many animals, it would have required 36 staff members and cost $84,000. Because the herd was tagged with RFID, only six people were needed to complete testing, at a cost of $22,000. Just as important, the producer’s operation experienced no interruptions in processing.

“We’ve seen a dramatic example of how RFID can save producer headaches and taxpayer dollars,” says Brancel. “Those are results you can take to the bank, and we’re glad Wisconsin farmers know that.”

Over the past few years, WLIC has worked with producers, county fairs, veterinarians, and other livestock groups to promote the value of animal identification and RFID for herd management as well as animal health and traceability purposes. WLIC also offers tag programs where producers and county fairs looking to implement RFID can apply to receive RFID tags at no cost. These tags are distributed on a first come, first serve basis, to qualified applicants.

Xerafy enhances performance of its X series RFID-on-metal tags for work-in-progress, asset tracking and equipment management

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Xerafy took advantage of a captive audience today at the Alien User and Partner Conference to unveil the new and enhanced line of its X Series tags. The X II UHF RFID-on-metal tags are engineered for high performance and demanding apps in the automotive, aerospace, construction, energy and IT markets.
 
The new X II Series maintains the look and feel of the original X Series tags but now include an ingress protection rating of IP68 and enhanced read-range performance.
  
Dennis Khoo, CEO of Xerafy, says that the new tags are particularly appealing to customers who have been unable to deploy RFID in the past because the RFID tags could not achieve read range requirements in harsh conditions. “In critical and often potentially hazardous applications requiring reliable identification of people and assets, Xerafy tags offer the RFID traceability essential for safe and secure operations and tracking,” he says.
 
The PicoX II and NanoX II come with robust a encasement that is weather resistant and increases tag performance to twice the reading distance of the PicoX and NanoX respectively. The MicroX II has the longest read range with over 26 feet and has been reconstructed using patent-pending packaging for higher impact and temperature performance.