This module supports the automated application of tags onto large volumes of cases/cartons/boxes (referred to in the industry as ‘Print & Apply’) traveling on a conveyor. As product moves through the tagging area, RFID labels are printed and applied to the carton by a mechanical ‘Applicator’. Why would a company want to consider a tagging station approach?
The reason is quite simple; as volumes of RFID tagged product continue to increase in the supply chain (driven by key trading partners), many suppliers are now tagging more than a few sample GTIN’s and the traditional ‘Slap and Ship’ stop-gap approach becomes extremely labor intensive with increased volumes.
TagNet’s Tagging Station solution adds value where the volume of tagged product is greater than a few pallets a week (initial compliance) and where automation is required to maintain shipment schedules without additional labor overhead. Tagging Station can be deployed into two situations:
1)Existing Inventory: automates the breakdown of pallets onto a conveyor for RFID tagging of existing product (in inventory) before shipment. This is middle ground before going to step 2.
2)New Inventory: Enables retrofit of solution into the existing packaging lines to apply RFID tags at the source of manufacture. This would be considered if the high majority of manufactured/packaged product is destined for Trading Partners requesting RFID tagged product (e.g. Wal-mart, Target, DoD, etc.)
To get an idea of what type of volumes can be supported with the tagging station solution, let’s examine a sample use case;
1)200,000 cases a year of a given SKU (GTIN) which equates to approx 4,000 cases/month.
2)Conveyor running at 30 fpm with one foot spacing equates to a throughput of 15 cases/minute or 900 cases/hour.
3)This suggests that the monthly requirement of 4,000 cases can be tagged in less than 5 hours (two workers in less than one shift). This throughput is especially noteworthy for 3PL’s that must ship specific customer product quickly with RFID tags applied – based on end customer location.
Shown below in Figure TS2 is a high level schematic of a tagging station with call-outs for each specific step. Note this is a sample configuration only. Your actual implementation may vary to suit your specific needs.
Figure TS2. RFID Tagging Station example
Listed below are steps pursuant to RFID Tagging Station as detailed above:
1)The existing barcode on the case (typically ink jet) is scanned and that is sent to TagNet for EPC encoding
2)The UPC or GTIN is encoded into a EPC, the correct label format is looked up and sent to the RFID print applicator engine on the conveyor
3)If this is the first case of new pallet then a pallet tag label is sent to the RFID pallet printer to be applied by operator
4)The case scanned gets the RFID tag applied by pneumatic arm on the applicator
5)Further downstream the Tag is verified by a RFID reader on the conveyor that ensures that the tag is readable and properly commissioned
6)If there is any readable/logic issues with tag it is diverted to an exception conveyor based on a signal from the RFID reader (controlled by TagNet)
7)The newly tagged & validated case travels down the accumulation conveyor to be re-palletized where it is aggregated to the hierarchy of that pallet.
What is not shown in the schematic is the addition of hydraulic pallet turn tables that automatically raise and swivel the pallet for ease of unloading and loading.
These hyperlinks perform the following functions for each Logical Reader Profile
Tagging Station ID: – The Station ID assigned by the end user.
Description: – The description of the Station assigned by the end user.
Label Format: – The name of the file that contains the Case label printer commands to be sent to the Print Applicator engine. Note: this can be generated by an existing RFID label software such as Bartender and the reworked with variables for the Tagging Station. Note2: the GTIN being tagged is merged into the label format along with its description and other attributes. Note3: ZPL (Zebra Printer Language) is displayed, but other printer languages can be supported.
Tagging Station IP Address: – The IP address and port of the Print engine on the applicator.
Bar Code Reader IP Address: – The IP address and port of the Barcode scanner on the conveyer.
Timeout – The duration of time that the Tagging Station application will wait to acquire the all the required devices. Note: if the print engine does not receive any input for its timeout value, it will timeout as well.
Location ID: – a dropdown list of all configured logical Reader locations as defined in Event Subscriptions. This is the case/verify station that gets launched when the Tagging Station is started. Note: ensure that the Schedule has been assigned a status of ‘Manual’ so that the Event monitor does not try to start and stop it during tagging station operation.
Status – The status of the Tagging Station definition, either ACTIVE or INACTIVE.
Current Pallet Information: – information about the current tagging station status with respect to a running job. Status fields below:
oGTIN: the current GTIN being tagged on the conveyer
oPallet ID: the EPC generated, is assigned to all cases on that pallet
oPallet Size: the standard number of case/cartons for that GTIN
oPallet Count: the current number of cases that have been tagged.
EPC Element: – a Dropdown list of numbering schemes to convert; SGTIN 96-bit, SSCC 96-bit, or SGLN 96-bit. Note: currently only SGTIN is supported.
Filter Value: – this is also referred to as the EPC ‘Object Type’ which relates to a packaging type (e.g. Case, Pallet, tote, etc.). Case values are typically ‘2’ according to EPC standards.
Partition: – a number representing the size of the UCC Company Prefix. Most US company prefixes are 7 digits long which is indicated by a partition value of 5.
Generate Pallet Label: – dictates whether a pallet tag will be printed on the first occurrence of a case being read (from a new pallet). Note: the tagging station logic automatically accounts for cases that are kicked out due to a bad read in the tag verify station, thus decrementing the pallet count.
Pallet Label Format: – The name of the file that contains the Pallet label print commands to be sent to the Print Applicator engine. Note: this can be generated by an existing RFID label software such as Bartender and the reworked with variables for the Tagging Station. Note: ZPL (Zebra Printer Language) is displayed, but other printer languages can be supported.
Printer IP Address: – The IP address and port of the RFID Pallet Printer (typically a desktop).
Pallet Filter Value: – this is also referred to as the EPC ‘Object Type’ which relates to a packaging type (e.g. Case, Pallet, tote, etc.). Pallet values are typically ‘0’ according to EPC standards.
Enable Emulation: – allows user to run simulation of cases being read on a conveyer (without the actual conveyer). Note: the file to maintain this simulation of reads is stored in the Label Format folder specified in the System Settings option.
[Update] Button - this updates any Tagging Station changes and returns the user back to the main Tagging Station list page.
[Cancel] Button - does not update any changes and returns to the main Tagging Station list page.
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