Update on EPC tagging of pallets and cases
Across the world, the first quarter of 2005 saw few deliveries of pallets and cases with EPC UHF tags. Although Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Target, the US Military and others had mandated them, they received only of the order of one million tagged pallets and cases between them all. Wal-Mart reported only 63% successful reads - totally unacceptable - and demanded 100%. Kimberley Clark reported zero reads on loaded pallets that were wet from being brought in from the cold. Gillette started work on redesigning item packaging in cases and case packaging to be UHF friendly, with better spacing and removal of metal. With dry, non-metallic products and packaging a number of players reported 100% reads and in Germany, Metro was getting 100% reads or thereabouts even with absorbent and reflective loads by reading the tags with nothing in the way and using omnidirectional tags such as the Rafsec's Flag Tag where an antenna pops up at right angles to the tag when it is applied.
In April 2005, IDTechEx assesses that the leading suppliers of EPC UHF pallet/ case tags were delivering at a rate of about 13 million tags per month and, although this was ten times the delivery rate at the end of 2004, it was woefully inadequate to meet the forecast of analysts and EPC global members of billions by year end or get the price down to the magic five cents where most of the world's 30-40,000 pallets and cases will be tagged. Selling prices had dropped however, from around one dollar two years ago to around 20 cents.
It now looks as if 2005 will see no more than 3-400 million UHF EPC tags delivered to the suppliers of the major retailers and the US Military. They will include Class 0, Class1 and Class 2, Gen 2, with the necessary chips becoming available from six chipmakers. Thus some users are choosing read only tags programmed at the tag maker, other choose read only ones they can program and others, a significant number, choose read write. Some important participants now anticipate supply shortages limiting deliveries over the next three years despite rapid ramp up of production output of tags. This is partly because tag dead on arrival and tag failures in use are not yet always at acceptable levels in the view of the retailers and their suppliers buying the tags.