22 Nov North-woods beef jerky maker adopts RFID to track shipments
With the help of Wisconsin-based ABC Computers, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky will be able to keep up with the requirements of big distributors such as Wal-Mart, which is requiring its suppliers to add wireless tracking devices to their products.
Jack Link’s is headquartered in Minong, Wisconsin.
ABC Computers, a systems integration company, is working with Microsoft’s Navision program and several other partners to integrate radio frequency identification, known as RFID, into Jack Link’s products. The technology will allow the beef-jerky company to automate some of its shipping, inventory, and other business dealings by placing wireless identification tags on shipments.
Most RFID systems include transponder tags that are capable of storing large amounts of information, tag programming equipment with which to store the information in the tags, and tag readers. When the tags come within range of tag readers, they are detected and scanned for the information they carry via radio signals.
“The biggest factor is that this is going to revolutionize how we bring transactions into enterprise solutions,” said Donavan Lane, president of ABC Computers. “Unlike with barcodes, if someone enters a sales order … with a simple RFID tag, we can remove it from inventory and move it from one location to another location without any intervention. And it’s just huge,”
Whereas barcodes require a line-of-sight to be read, RFID tags need only to be within the range of wireless signals. In addition, since RFID readers are capable of distinguishing between individual tags, they can be read and interpreted at a speed of over 250 tags per second, while barcodes can only be scanned one at a time. RFID tags can also be encased in hardened plastic. They can carry 2,000 or more characters of information, whereas one-dimensional barcodes can hold only 20.
“The interest in RFID is not limited to companies that are required to comply with RFID mandates from major customers, such as Wal-Mart, [the Department of Defense], Target, etc.,” said Raj Veeramani, director of the University of Wisconsin’s E-Business Consortium. The consortium includes an RFID Industry Workgroup involving about 35 companies.
“In fact, RFID offers significant opportunities for other companies and industries including automotive, pharmaceuticals, heavy equipment, printing, paper, packaging, food processing, etc., and there is growing interest in RFID among those companies even when they are not under pressure from customer mandates,” Veeramani said.
Jack Link’s and ABC will be implementing RFID technology in four stages. They have already tagged some cases and pallets, and are now integrating the technology into Microsoft’s Navision program. ABC Computers and other Microsoft partner companies are working to program the readers to feed data automatically from the RFID tags into Microsoft Navision.
“We developed the software that’s integrated with Navision, and then worked closely with the staff at Microsoft and Avery Dennison to work with the readers,” Lane said. “The software that we developed will be a part of the 5.0 Version of Navision.”
After the completion of the project’s third phase, which will extend RFID technology to the supplies that Jack Link’s receives, the final phase of the project will incorporate the technology into tracking the transfers of supplies and products from the company’s manufacturing locations to the its distribution center.
“RFID has strategic implications for a number of industry clusters … that are core to Wisconsin’s economy. It is through such product and process innovation that Wisconsin industries will be able to distinguish themselves against offshore low-wage competition and maintain their competitive advantage,” Veeramani said.
Katy Williams is a Madison-based correspondent for WTN and can be reached at email@example.com.