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 user 2005-02-27 at 9:39:00 am Views: 58
  • #10562

    Pump Up The Volume
    “Noisy Lab” boosts the number of
    RFID-tagged products headed for Wal-Mart

    In April 2004, IT giant Hewlett-Packard(HP)was one of just
    eight consumer goods giants that began shipping Electronic Product Code
    (EPC)-products to Wal-Mart’s Dallas/Fort Worth distribution center.The trial
    was part of Wal-Mart’s efforts to enhance its ability to receive EPC-tagged
    pallets and cases of products ahead of its January 2005 deadline, when the
    retailer’s top 100 suppliers, plus 37 volunteers, were expected to start
    delivering EPC-tagged shipments.

    An Early Adopter
    HP’s investigation into RFID as an
    emerging technology began nearly two years earlier, realizing that the
    deployment of RFID could drive significant gains in productivity and save money
    as products could be shipped and received more quickly.In 2003,an initial
    proof-of-concept pilot at HP’s Memphis manufacturing plant determined that a
    pallet could be prepared for shipment in only 11 seconds, as opposed to previous
    testing that measured 90 seconds. “That was a specific process with a specific
    product,” said Ian Robertson, director of HP’s RFID program, in May 2004. “We
    know that in electronics manufacturing, there is a high degree of variability,
    and every item could mean a shift in configuration. But it made us think RFID
    was worth going after.”

    From here, HP set its sights on Wal-Mart’s pilot project. HP
    prepared three of its 65 consumer products — one model of HP’s Scanjet scanners
    and two of its Photosmart photo printers — to be EPC-tagged and then shipped to
    Wal-Mart from its Memphis, Tennessee, manufacturing and distribution operations.
    At the same time, another HP manufacturing plant in Chester, Virginia, was
    tagging cases of HP inkjet printer cartridges even though a shipment date had
    yet to be determined as the ink’s cartridge’s liquid and metal composition
    presented significant challenges in obtaining an accurate tag read.

    Pumping up Product Volume
    Today, less than a month after
    Wal-Mart’s January 2005 deadline, HP has leveraged knowledge and experience
    gleaned from its Memphis and Chester projects to increase the number RFID-tagged
    products shipped to Wal-Mart and additional retailers at the pallet, case and
    packaging level from just three consumer technology products to more than 40.
    The next generation of HP products to be tagged with EPC technology include HP
    All-in-One printers, HP iPAQ Pocket PCs, HP Compaq Presario desktop PCs, HP
    notebook computers, HP LaserJet and Deskjet printers, and additional Photosmart
    printer models.

    A major and indispensable player in HP’s broader RFID
    acceleration initiative is the company’s new RFID Noisy Lab in Omaha, Nebraska —
    a facility developed to simulate a real-world manufacturing and distribution
    center where HP, its customers and its partners can pilot and evaluate RFID
    technology and solutions. Announced at the National Retail Federation 94th
    Annual Convention and Expo, HP expects its facility to be one of the more
    comprehensive RFID labs in the industry.

    “Our new Noisy Lab facility offers an invaluable resource to
    HP, its customer and partners as they develop innovative RFID solutions and
    services to help simplify change and reduce costs,” says Robertson. “We are
    committed to developing and implementing RFID technology in a cost-effective and
    low-risk manner to meet our customer requirements and make supply chain
    improvements in industries as diverse as retail, consumer packaged goods
    manufacturing, automotive, pharmaceutical and high technology.”

    Making Noise with RFID
    So named because it simulates a
    live or “noisy” manufacturing environment and distribution center, HP will use
    the Lab’s controlled environment to test RFID equipment, solutions and
    technology from new vendors; and to host customer tours, demonstrations and
    proof-of-concepts. Several key elements have been implemented to ensure a
    real-world manufacturing and distribution center, including:

    4Racetrack conveyor capable of reaching variable speeds up to
    600 feet per minute and equipped with cases of consumer products that have a
    maximum weight of 50 pounds and case volume size of two cubic feet.

    • RFID printer write station that writes electronically to an RFID tag and
      prints a readable number on the tag. The station has the capability to easily
      change vendor printer equipment.

    • RFID write station with the capability to write to the tag after the tag is
      applied to the case.

    • RFID read station located near a conveyor belt that reads the RFID tag. The
      station will be movable so that tests can be conducted at varying distances.

    • RFID portal that can read pallet and case tags while a forklift moves through
      the station.

    • Middleware server with three middleware vendor products that enable a
      comparison of product features from RFID middleware vendors.

    • Pallet wrap station on a turntable with RFID read capability.

    Additionally, Printronix contributes a SmartLine SL5304e MP RFID printer,
    enabling encoding and printing of various RFID label sizes and antenna designs
    that have emerged as popular standards through early adopter pilot programs.
    Printronix also plans to use the lab to test RFID printing and software
    configurations in a real-world environment. HP is collaborating with several
    other companies to demonstrate RFID solutions, including: ADT Sensormatic, Alien
    Technology, Applied Wireless Identifications Inc., OATSystems and Shipcom

    Leading the Industry
    While the RFID Noisy Lab was developed with one goal
    in mind—to increase the number of RFID-tagged products bound for retailers
    from three HP consumer technology products to more than 40 — industry experts
    expect the facility will lead RFID initiatives for additional retail and
    consumer goods firm. HP’s RFID lab initiatives “further underscores HP’s
    commitment to providing the right solutions for supply chain participants within
    the RFID marketplace,” says Richard Dean, program director for Mobile Enterprise
    and RFID Services research, IDC Research.