While US retailer Wal-Mart's adoption of RFID was hit by bugs and delays, they were really only hiccups and the adoption of the technology is pushing ahead unphased, according to one Australian expert.
Mark Dingley, head of Matthews' Intelligent Identification Systems Group (IDS), told Packaging magazine that Wal-Mart's demand that its top 100 suppliers be RFID compliant by January had turned out to be a bit ambitious.
"It was ambitious because implementing RFID was much more than a technology upgrade. It involves analysing the entire supply chain and supply-chain strategy."
Dingley said it also had been ambitious because despite RFID's great strengths, until recently, the lack of a worldwide standard has been a weakness. Some trials had raised issues with successful tag reading, and what was required from presentation, to ensure a successful read on all pallet loads.
"RFID has excellent application in supply-chain management, but it's still an evolving technology, with more expected of it than developed standards immediately allow. EPCglobal is working on devel-oping those standards, but they are not finalised."
Matthews, the first coding and marking company to sign up to EPCglobal Australia, was also helping with work on a global standard, Dingley said.
Dingley said reports from late last year had pointed towards some of Wal-Mart's suppliers using a 'slap-and-ship' methodology with RFID tags.
"But if attaching RFID tags is not an inherent part of the supply-chain activities, then it's just adding cost and inefficiencies to the process. For suppliers, processors and manufacturers, that's just compliance for the sake of compliance, without the supply-chain transparency benefits RFID can, and will, offer."
But Dingley praised Wal-Mart for taking a lead with RFID.
"This has ensured RFID stand-ards will remain a top priority for industry. Because it's real life, not a trial or even theory, problems encountered should be immed-iately seen and dealt with appropriately, taking a long-term view, rather than a quick fix."
Dingley said pallet load identi-fication in Australia may still be some three to five years away, with carton ID five to seven years down the track.
He says the most cost-effective way to approach labelling and coding capital expenditure in the lead-up to RFID standards coming into place is with an RFID-ready printer, such as the Fox IV 3000 label printer applicator and Datamax I-Class label printer.
Printers such as these met both current and future needs of potential EPC/RFID smart-label users and were well suited to pallet-load and carton-labelling applications.