“The market has a promising growth potential due to several factors, including growing market competitiveness leading to the availability of cost-effective RFID solutions, high returns on investment, and increasing regulations and government initiatives for various industries. Moreover, increasing installation of RFID systems in manufacturing units to improve productivity due to Covid-19 could play a key role in driving the growth of the RFID market,” Research and Markets reports.
Tags are projected to be the largest product segment of the RFID market, as they are key components in an RFID solution and make up the majority of the market due to bulk and multiple applications. Due to this, the segment captured the largest share of the market in 2020, the firm says, adding that the number of tags installed is much higher than the number of readers and software used in the RFID ecosystem of an organization. Additionally, with the rising number of assets, the installation of tags increases; however, existing readers can be used to scan new tags. This is cited as the main reason for the tag segment being the largest.
The passive tags segment is projected to gain increased market share by 2026, Research and Markets reports. The market for passive tags is expected to grow in applications such as retail, supply chain, transportation, aerospace and sporting goods. The factors contributing to the growth of passive tags in these applications are the low cost of tags and their increasing precision in data storage and reading distance. The penetration of RAIN RFID has further boosted the market of ultra-high-frequency passive tags, as this frequency is globally adaptable by manufacturers and customers. This is another key reason for the growth of the RFID market for passive tags.
Logistics and supply chain applications are projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The growth of this segment is attributed to the high adoption of tracking systems by logistics organizations to track and monitor their cargo in transit through air, road or sea. Companies are also using sensor-based RFID tagging systems to monitor environmental conditions around the products being transported.
Repacorp rolling with RFID
Repacorp, a label and packaging converter with manufacturing facilities in Arizona, Ohio and Wisconsin, reports growing interest in RFID-based products.
“Any customer that has a need to eliminate human error has a reason to use RFID,” says Rochelle Heinl, vice president, Repacorp Inc., who invested in this technology 15 years ago. The company is able to successfully offer its customers a variety of new innovative label solutions, as well as other RFID-based products. Since the beginning, Repacorp centered its RFID production on advanced narrow web printing presses from Mark Andy.
“RFID seems to finally be picking up,” notes Heinl, adding, “The interest in this product line has peaked over the last year, and I believe customers seem less scared and more understanding of the technology, allowing for a greater overall adoption.”
Recently, big retail shops have widely implemented this technology, which equated to considerable growth for Repacorp, delivering RFID-based labels to many retail companies.
Repacorp has cooperated with many brand owners in the area, but its RFID solutions have also been used by companies from other industries, including automotive, race-timing, healthcare, and warehouse tracking, to name a few. “There are many different applications of this technology. One of our customers is using RFID in their warehouse to help with inventory consistency and counts. They were able to cut down their warehouse staff from six employees to two and increase the accuracy of items on the shelf to over 98%, up from 81%” Heinl continues.
As Heinl indicates, users of RFID technology mainly appreciate its ability to eliminate human errors. “The accuracy and consistency of any project can be greatly increased because of RFID. For example, specific to retail inventory control, when shoppers go into a store to get a specific item, if that item is in stock but not in its designated location, consumers are less likely to spend additional funds and will think about the lack of product next time they go to buy a similar item, and they likely may consider another store. With RFID technology, if the clerk is not able to locate the product on the shelf, however, an RFID app showing them where it was last scanned allows the item to be tracked down and purchased.”
Repacorp is using RFID technology in its own warehouse, which makes inventory tracking simpler and more convenient. “RFID helps in fast locating of any batch of printed labels,”
The converter has a very diverse product offering. It includes labels (from blank to premium) printed in flexo and digital, as well as shrink sleeves and flexible packaging. “Repacorp has the equipment that allows us to do the most output of imprinted/encoded labels in the industry,” Heinl says, adding, “Our innovative presses enable us to take either a database provided by a customer or a series of numbers and quickly convert to meet a customer’s enlarging need of product. As the need for pre-numbered labels grows in the industry, Repacorp would be a great partner to supply the product for this.”
Repacorp credits much of its RFID success to its partnership with Mark Andy. Heinl explains, “Mark Andy’s solutions, with integrated RFID modules, have been configured according to our needs, and Mark Andy has been an incredible partner for all our product lines. From the shrink industry to RFID, Mark Andy has provided great support. They have worked extremely diligently alongside different suppliers, helping us establish and create truly magnificent pieces of equipment. Currently, due to this partnership, we are one of the leading RFID converters in the marketplace.”
Repacorp started manufacturing RFID labels and tags in the mid-2000s. Since that time, the company installed four presses from Mark Andy. In describing the scale of its production capabilities, Heinl explains, “We can now convert 10"– 20" web, print front and/or back up to eight colors. We insert, diecut and verify all inline and can print and encode multiple lanes across at high speeds while also checking for duplicates. Our diverse equipment platform allows us to tackle the simplest to most difficult RFID projects.
“RFID adoption is growing. In today’s world, many companies are looking at how to automate any operation within their facility, and, a great way to help achieve that is through using RFID technology,” Heinl concludes.
DoseID, the RFID consortium
Schreiner MediPharm, a Germany-based global provider of functional labels for the healthcare industry, has joined US-based consortium DoseID, the first industry association dedicated to standardizing the use of RFID tags in healthcare.
Comprised of leading healthcare sector players, DoseID was established for the purpose of introducing an industry-wide standard.
RFID technology has been gaining traction in the healthcare sector, but standardized tools for tracking medications, devices and consumables are lacking. To that end, DoseID’s goal is to ensure the interoperability, quality and performance of RFID-tagged drug products as they move through the pharmaceutical supply chain. The drugs are tracked across all hardware and software systems – from the manufacturer, through the distributor, to the hospital and eventually to the patient.
Pharmaceuticals can be successfully tracked by serializing medications, containers and devices. To achieve these goals, though, RFID tags must deliver reliable performance in all hospital and healthcare IT systems so that products can be tracked at unit level and across their entire lifecycle. RFID-Labels from Schreiner MediPharm are important enablers in this context: They allow frictionless integration and smooth processing on unit-level pharmaceutical packaging lines, improving the automation of processes to increase efficiency and, most importantly, enhancing patient and drug safety.
“As a long-term provider of customized RFID labels for the healthcare industry, we see the need for interoperability and quality standards as essential to leveraging the full potential of RFID. We look forward to being part of the DoseID consortium to mutually drive RFID-based smart solutions to enhance the pharmaceutical supply chain,” says Stefan Wiedemann, senior director of strategic marketing and business development at Schreiner MediPharm.
The unit level serialization enabled by DoseID surpasses the requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), a standard securing the US supply chain of prescription drugs. To ensure adherence to the standards established by the consortium and conformity with the requirements of pharmaceutical manufacturers, compounding pharmacies, pharmacy automation service providers, and manufacturers of RFID inlays and tags, a special RFID tag certification also is awarded after third-party testing.
Introducing Minidose U8 inlays
Last year, Avery Dennison completed its acquisition of Smartrac’s RFID transponder business, strengthening the label material supplier’s role in developing RFID technology.
Avery Dennison Smartrac designs products to meet specific customer requirements, and lately a focus has been on healthcare applications, with the goal of ensuring patient safety, increasing nursing “time to care,” and decreasing inefficiencies in the operational process. In addition to designing RFID products that enable item-level tagging in the pharmaceutical sector, the company produces a wide range of other products for many industry sectors.
Recently, Avery Dennison launched its ultra-small Minidose U8 RAIN RFID inlays for pharma applications, the first products on the market to receive ARC certification (Spec S) from Auburn University’s RFID Lab, and to be approved for use by DoseID. Minidose U8 inlays have been carefully designed to blend performance, cost-effectiveness and size to work on multiple items such as syringes, plastic and glass vials, as well as packaging designs used for all kinds of pharmaceuticals.
Minidose U8 is a UHF RFID product performing in the standard UHF RFID frequency band between 860MHz-960MHz. It has a small form factor of 22 x 12 mm, is available in dry and wet formats, and uses NXP’s proven UCODE 8 IC.
Hal Hikita, head of product line management at Avery Dennison Smartrac, explains, “As the smallest product currently on the market that has passed ARC Spec S, Minidose U8 meets the needs of a wide range of pharmaceutical item-level packaging solutions. The inlay is qualified to perform robustly on clear and amber glass, as well as plastics and syringes, even when filled with pharmaceuticals and biologicals, thereby unlocking critical RFID value for healthcare, pharmacies, and laboratory asset management.”
Avery Dennison Smartrac is the key RFID partner for Kit Check, a provider of automated medication tracking and diversion detection solutions for hospital pharmacies in the US. The Kit Check RFID-enabled inventory management product helps hospitals modernize restocking processes, and automate them to save redundant drug spend and ensure patient safety.
According to Kevin MacDonald, CEO and co-founder of Kit Check, “Since our inception, Kit Check has experienced great success working with Avery Dennison Smartrac to design and implement RFID tag designs. We tag a myriad of pharmaceuticals through the Kit Check solution to deliver the right medicine to the right patient at the right time, every time.”
Available as wet and dry inlays with the NXP UCODE 8 IC, Minidose U8 will ship in volume from Q2 2021. Minidose U8 inlays are compliant with ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management and ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management, which ensure a reliable product that meets a variety of application needs.
Avery Dennison Smartrac also recently announced RAINFC Belt DF tags, based on EM Microelectronic’s em|echo-V IC. These tags allow for the easy tracing of products through application of long-range, dual-frequency transponders for product identification and management. This data can then be logged in supply chain software developer SUKU’s blockchain-powered application and tag management platform, OMNI, enabling anyone to verify the supply chain journey and authenticate a product’s origins. The traceability software provides pharma and healthcare companies a way to give each of these items a digital identity, which can be placed on the blockchain to help prevent fraud. It also provides a way to trace products on their journey to market and ensure their provenance.