You Are What You Ship
As machinery vendors, we must ship 100 percent perfect products, every time to every customer. We get more time to get an order right and a lot more money than label printers/converters do for their products, so our perspective is different.
Nonetheless, when a converter adds to its capabilities by becoming an RFID label supplier, a key guiding principle must be assuring that it secures methods that guarantee it manufactures 100 percent functional RFID products. Early on, we heard statements such as, “I’ll offer two price levels, non-inspected and inspected labels.” Competitors who had efficient systems to remove defects before integration into labels and furnish 100 percent functional products matched the pricing of these Walter Mittys and they were finished.
The RFID Web page of a leading supplier of RF tags to the pharmaceutical and airline bag tag markets illustrates this: It is completely dedicated to a discussion of 100 percent functionality (no mention of great price, great service, extraordinary design or delivery). And they get the contracts.
While this may be obvious for some, market conditions exist which may lead many to believe that there is an acceptable margin for error when shipping finished products.
First, every major encoder/applicator machine has provisions for recognizing a low- or non-performing RFID label and eliminating it from the downstream process. However, consecutive or frequent defects will slow a high-speed line to unacceptable levels. There will also be the headache of reconciliation of labels that are paid for, but are defective.
Second, it will be difficult for most label and integration machinery to recognize and deal with defective transponders in the process of adding them to labels. While former abysmal UHF transponder defect rates of 15-30 percent have improved with Gen2 products, these are essentially electronic components, and will always contain a certain level of defects in a supply roll. Dry (non-adhesive) inlays are always integrated onto the carrier substrate of a roll and cannot be doctored out of the roll if defective. RFID inlay suppliers can identify and mark bad tags, but it is left to the converters to remove them from the production stream.