Tributes and Trials
RFID in the converting industry is full of advantages and pitfalls, but experts say it's time for converters to get involved in the technology.
RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION (RFID)—those three words present both challenges and opportunities to converters today and will for years to come. On one hand, there's the ugly beast made up of high short-term and long-term expenditures, a steep learning curve, and the fact that the technology is continuously developing.
On the other hand, there's a huge customer base yet to be tapped, which is only going to grow over the next several years. This is due to mandates from Wal-Mart and other large retailers, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense, who want the technology for supply chain logistics. There's also pressure to adopt RFID by way of recommendations by organizations like the Food and Drug Administration, which is pushing for pharmaceutical companies to use RFID to help counteract security and counterfeiting issues.
The benefits that both retailers and consumer products will reap from incorporating RFID in packaging are obvious. With retail, said Dave Grove, technical sales specialist, Schober USA, "Wal-Mart has proven the advantage of being able to track RFID-tagged product. Wal-Mart representative and Vice President Linda Dillman told us at the recent RFID World Conference that they can now track inventory more efficiently, allowing them to restock shelves hours or days faster than previously possible. Empty shelves translate to lost sales. This happens with just pallet-level tagging."
With pharmaceuticals, RFID has the capability to help prevent such tragedies as the counterfeit Procrit® scare. In 2002, more than 100,000 vials of counterfeit Procrit—a drug used in the treatment of anemia associated with chemotherapy, chronic kidney failure, and in the treatment of HIV/AIDS—made its way onto pharmacy shelves. The ability to write to and read an RFID tag used in a label on prescriptions could be the answer to saving lives through better controlled supply chains.