19 Apr Neenah lab helps firm ship RFID-tagged products to Wal-Mart
Dallas, Tex. — Kimberly-Clark Corp. announced Wednesday that it has begun shipping Gen2 RFID-tagged cases of product to Wal-Mart, and the company has its dedicated Auto-ID research lab in Neenah, Wis., to thank for it.
The use of Gen2 RFID-tagged cases for the shipment of Huggies brand diapers is the company’s next step in the implementation of RFID technology. It is the result of extensive research and testing on the compatibility of Gen2 hardware and software with conveyor, packaging, logistics, and shipping systems in the Neenah research lab.
Gary Clement, senior manager of the company’s Auto-ID Sensing Technology Group, said the expansion of RFID to other products would depend largely on the customer’s rate of adoption.
“At some point we will hit a critical mass where everything gets tagged, but our customers are really going to have to embrace it before we move that far,” Clement said. “Don’t get me wrong, they have embraced it, but there is a lot of infrastructure to set up.”
RFID has the potential to create real-time supply chains because its invisible tags read faster, enabling information sharing between retailers and suppliers in the company’s Auto-ID research lab in Neenah. With the Gen2 hardware and software, Kimberly-Clark encodes the RFID tags, places them on cases, captures and transferred product data into its supply chain system, and forwards the data to Wal-Mart, letting them know their product order had been shipped.
Kimberly-Clark will continue to work with customers like Wal-Mart to determine how RFID technology can be used to improve the accuracy and functionality of shipping and receiving, invoicing, and inventory control. As the company continues to deploy Gen2 throughout its supply chain infrastructure, it anticipates improved efficiencies that will help it deliver, in the words of Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Cheryl Perkins, “the right product to the right customer at the right time.”
Clement will have an increasingly important role in that endeavor. He heads an award-winning team comprised of 12 people, and has additional support from Kimberly-Clark’s IT services department and its logistics alliance team. In 2005, the Auto-ID research lab was one of only two facilities in North America to be awarded the first Global Performance Test Center Accreditation Marks by EPCglobal, Inc. The award recognized Kimberly-Clark’s role in the testing of Gen2 RFID technology in the global supply chain. In November 2005, the company also received the first Early RFID Adopter Award from Consumer Goods Technology magazine.
Before Gen2 was deployed, the company was using first-generation RFID technology, which was less standardized and not as streamlined in terms of protocol. With a global standard in place for EPCglobal, Gen2 allows much more interoperability, Clement said.
Clement believes other Wisconsin businesses will take notice, speeding the pace of RFID adoption here. “I think people are going to find that it is a great tool,” he said. “You can use it not just for your supply chain operation, but your own internal asset tracking, whether you want to track computers with it or whether you want to track parts.
“RFID is just an enabler for systems.”
The Auto-ID research lab also is looking at sensors to track a broad range of conditions, including temperature, humidity, and moisture, and determine how they affect different products in the supply chain. When shipping cases overseas, Clement said the company will want to know if they have gotten wet or whether refrigerated products have dropped below a certain temperature that could ruin the cold storage product.