In recent years, several major retailers have announced plans to improve efficiency and profitability by tagging many, if not all, of their inventory with radio frequency identification (RFID). With item-level RFID, they hope to boost inventory accuracy, reduce out-of-stock items, improve loss prevention and fraud, and eventually enable self-checkout.
When one of Agron’s major customers adopted the new approach, the manufacturing company had to begin adding RFID tags to all items for that customer, amounting to about 30,000 units every week. Agron had to implement the new process quickly
Agron partnered with MSA Systems to deploy the infrastructure for item-level tagging and other warehouse software and automation. The manufacturing company implemented a Pick Pack and Ship WMS and MSA’s QStock RFID printing Software to control inventory and manage the serial numbers associated with each RFID-tagged item.
For printing, MSA pointed Agron to the Zebra R110Xi4 RFID printer/encoder to meet the company’s needs for high performance and reliability. “From many other implementations, Zebra’s track record gave us high confidence in its performance and durability,” said Majid Jalalian, president of MSA Systems.
With RFID inlays spaced closer together than other printers, the R110Xi4 provides a lower cost per label, fewer media-roll changes and fast throughput. As the printer prints the human readable text and barcode on the face of the label, it also encodes the RFID inlay embedded in the label, providing an integrated solution with built-in error handling.
MSA Systems assisted with setup, configuration, label formatting and training on the R110Xi4 printer/encoders. A number of built-in features save MSA and Agron time in initial configuration and when making any changes. In fact, the printers were up and running in one afternoon.
To ensure that tags are encoded accurately, the printer/encoder technology checks that the blank tag is valid, encodes the tag and then validates that the encoded tag is readable—giving Agron and its customer peace of mind that tags are scannable. Additionally, Zebra’s patent-pending Adaptive Encoding Technology enables smart inlay detection and calibration, saving time in positioning new labels.
With the Zebra printer/encoder, Agron meets its customer’s new RFID directive without having to change its supply chain process or incur cumbersome maintenance requirements. The new printer/encoders simply take the place of previous tag printers, which added zero time to the tagging workflow.
“From the point of view of our users, it was very smooth adding leading-edge technology to our existing process,” said Marc Hernandez, director of service and distribution for Agron.
Each week, Agron receives orders from the customer, typically for more than 1,000 store locations. Pickers gather products and move them to printing/encoding stations for RFID tagging. The company prints all 30,000 tags in five to six hours—or just one morning— helping Agron easily meet its turnaround times for the customer. Additionally, Agron finds the Zebra printer/encoders run without the regular outages and maintenance the company has experienced with previous printers, lowering the cost of ownership.
“We process thousands of cartons a day and needed something that could keep up and encode tags reliably,” Hernandez said. “Zebra provides the industrial printer/encoder we need for high-speed RFID printing.” To watch the Video on Agron http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkSuUgQiPBw