The Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition (RPCC) is working on a potentially ground-breaking solution that will not only address environmental concerns but will also allow companies to get a better ROI on their RFID investment—by using multiple-use tags on reusable shipping containers.
"We want to establish the business case for RFID and multi-use tags as it applies to reusable transport packaging," says Jeanie Johnson, executive director of the RPCC, a Washington-based trade association of companies that manufacture reusable pallets and containers and manage pooling services to users and distributors of these products.
"The problem is that companies have been using single-use RFID tags on one-way packaging, such as cardboard, and the tags are just thrown away," says Johnson. "Our project assumption is that reusable transport packaging will be the real enabler for the success of RFID technology—especially in the food industry, where perishables are often shipped in reusable plastic containers (RPCs)."
Although only about 3 percent of product in the food industry is shipped via reusable transport packaging, the savings garnered by reusing shipping materials as well as reusable RFID tags could be enormous, Johnson points out. "Most of the field tests in the U.S. have been done on one-way transport, but it's certainly much more economical and better for the environment to get reuse tags and containers. We're way behind Europe in this area."
The RPCC will begin a three-phase project to test its theory, starting with lab tests at a university this month to examine the durability of multi-use tags when used with reusable containers.
Johnson says the organization will test five to seven different tags, which are all Electronic Product Code (EPC) compliant. "The tags will be tested under simulated conditions, including placement, vibrations, wet, cooling—the harshest kinds of environment that a multi-use tag would have to go through."
Once the lab tests are completed, which should take about a month, the RPCC will develop an economic model for integrating the RFID tags with reusable transport packaging.
"We're going to compare the cost of one-way RFID tags on expendable packaging vs. multi-use tags on reusable transport packaging," according to Johnson.
"If these two phases give us the outcome we anticipate, we'll do a field test this fall using RFID to track RPCs with a major shipper/grower and a major retailer. We'll use produce because it is subject to the harshest conditions." she says, adding "asset visibility will be greatly enhanced throughout the supply chain if we can enable these multi-use tags throughout the supply chain."