Saturday, May 28, 2005

Thinking outside -- or inside -- the box?

A new study evaluates the impact that RFID (radio-frequency identification) deployment will have on corrugated box suppliers over the next three years and beyond. The study, commissioned by the Fibre Box Association (FBA) RFID Task Group, will be used to help corrugated packaging suppliers understand and plan for the future as vital partners in the supply chain.

With RFID a rapidly emerging trend in the consumer goods and retail industry, it is very likely that RFID tags will soon be requested on finished corrugated boxes, bearing a significant cost impact on a corrugated box plant. Since the corrugated industry has a long history of being a supportive supply-chain partner to its customers and end users, the FBA Board of Directors created a task force to investigate the impact of RFID.

The RFID Task Group recognized that studies had already been done examining the impact of RFID on other portions of the supply chain, specifically retailers and consumer goods firms, but no work had been published regarding the impact on packaging suppliers. Therefore, the RFID Task Group commissioned Forrester Consulting to develop a study in July-September 2004. The purpose of the study was to estimate the net effect on a corrugated box manufacturer of supplying RFID-enabled corrugated containers.

Intellareturn Take: Today's cost of tags are too high for corrugated box-making operations. At present, solutions adding a smart label to selective boxes is the appropriate strategy. Expect to see all printed cartons potentially available with RFID printing options as organic materials and lower cost in-line print production techniques with printed inks and electronics mature. Expect a three to five year timeframe as well. The first phase will likely be with couriers that supply or sell re-usable packaging for shipments that are pre-embedded with RFID identification and shipping solutions.

See the Fibre Box Assocation ( for more information. The summary report and model are available to FBA member companies, which produce more than 90 percent of all corrugated material manufactured in the U.S.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wireless Evolution Continues to Add Value To Logistics Operations

In the May 2005 edition of, Jean V. Murphy explores how early adopters are leveraging wireless networks in many new ways as a core competence in logistics and, even more important, as a competitive advantage.

The article cites how a number of the leading express delivery companies like United Parcel Service, DHL and Federal Express are utilizing their sophisticated networks. As the adoption and proliferation of RFID continues, these players will look for new opportunities to expand their operations. Intellareturn is preparing for this as well, with the expansion of intelligent warranty and returns.

For an in-depth look at the wireless efforts behind logistics, don't miss this article. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how these changes will impact both you and the industry.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

UPS opens 40,000 drop boxes to UPS Authorized Return Service packages

UPS announced that they are now accepting UPS Ground Authorized Return Service packages and other ground return services at its 40,000 drop box locations. Previously, customers would have to drop return packages at a UPS facility or hand it to a UPS driver. “In essence we’ve opened up our channels by 40,000 locations,” a spokesman says.

There are no extra charges for the retailer or customer.

“It’s a strong competitive edge for us, it enhances our value to catalogers and e-retailers out there because they can add that greater convenience for their customers, and just make it easier for them to do business,” he says.

Drop box ground packages must be labeled as a UPS returns package. These include Authorized Return Service, UPS Electronic Return Labels, UPS Returns on the Web, UPS Print Return Label and UPS Print and Return Label. The package dimensions cannot exceed 16x13x2 inches.

Intellareturn Perspective: This announcement is significant, as it shows the importance that reverse logistics plays for industry organizations -- and their courier partners like UPS. Once these companies learn about the innovative solutions for warranty and return efforts from companies like Intellareturn, the interest in RFID is sure to gain additional traction. With DHL running a number of programs with RFID, we're sure that this is now on their radar as well -- illustrating that market return solutions are important.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Logistics giants voice concern over expense and accuracy

Industry giants such as FedEx, UPS and DHL do not expect to offer a full RFID service to customers for at least two to three years and will only be supporting limited roll-outs to comply with the RFID policies of retailers such as Tesco, Metro in Germany and Wal-Mart in the US. UPS has no short-term plans to deploy RFID for shipping small packages, which account for 90% of its business, said Graham Nugent, UPS strategic IS manager for Europe. However, the firm has established a group of specialists to experiment with RFID. FedEx cited the cost of RFID and its existing investment in barcode technology as the biggest challenge to adoption. "RFID is just not ready to implement," a company spokeswoman said.

In an internal paper discussing the company's RFID strategy, Sherry Aaholm, senior vice-president of international and freight solutions, said, "It would be monumental for us to replace barcode technology, so we will start off with RFID acting as a supplemental offering with some suppliers." DHL believes common technology standards will be crucial to the uptake of RFID. "We are looking to achieve an ISO standard across all industries," said Trevor Peirce, leader of RFID at DHL. To facilitate this, DHL has become a board member of RFID standards group EPCGlobal. Peirce plans to have a common RFID standard across DHL in 2006, ahead of a wider roll-out in 2007.

TNT, another global logistics company, was reluctant to talk about its RFID strategy. See all comments in the full article from ComputerWeekly.

Intellareturn comment: The first of either DHL, UPS or FedEx to integrate RFID into their shipping networks will see competitive advantage and new business. Imagine just the business to Wal-Mart or DoD as RFID easily integrates and becomes supported across their networks. Further, new appplications (temperature sensing, track and trace, warranty and returns solutions) will add value.

UPS Technology Facts

  • UPS uses an IBM DB2 database (at 18.41Tbytes, one of the largest known databases in the world).

  • UPS, which delivers 13.6 million documents and packages every day, recently rolled out a new GPRS-based version of its delivery information acquisition device (Diad) to drivers across its UK and German operations.The Diads, which were designed by a subsidiary research and development company at UPS, are based on Motorola processors with Symbol scanner units and LCD screens from Hitachi.

  • Bob Nonneman, industrial engineer manager at UPS, has concluded that much progress needs to be made before radio-frequency identification sees widespread industry adoption. Still, Nonneman is optimistic that EPCGlobal's new Generation 2 standard will be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Did you know FedEx has one of the world's leading RFID engineers on its team?

Yes, his name is Randall Jackson. He's one the world's leading experts and has been atFedEx HQ for several years. Randall has a personal website in which he explains the history of RFID and other facts on the technology in easy to understand terms. Worth a look!