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5 Experts Share Insights on Labeling, RFID & AIDC Technology Trends

Doug Niemeyer

5 Experts Share Insights on Labeling, RFID & AIDC Technology Trends

BY: DOUG NIEMEYER / DATE: 12/21/2023 / TOPICS: RETAIL, WAREHOUSING & DISTRIBUTION, PHARMACEUTICAL, FOOD & BEVERAGE, RFID, SUSTAINABILITY

As we step into 2024, the landscape of labeling and Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technologies is ready for growth. In this blog post, we bring you insights from five industry experts who shed light on the trends shaping the future of labeling processes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and the broader AIDC ecosystem. 

 

From the rise of mobile solutions enhancing workforce efficiency to the impact of AI-driven cloud platforms transforming labeling and artwork management, and the ongoing movement towards supply chain sustainability, these experts provide a comprehensive view of what lies ahead. Read the key trends expected in 2024 and beyond, and peek into advancements that will potentially change how businesses approach labeling and AIDC technology.

 

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1. Expected growth in mobile technologies to meet demands for efficiency & flexibility

From Nick D’Alessio, Senior Business Development Manager, Brother Mobile Solutions

 

In the pre-pandemic years leading up to 2020, many retailers and warehouse operators of distribution centers were exploring workflow transformations in their operations. With the pervasive usage of mobile devices in our personal lives, enterprise mobility was following fast and IT departments were struggling to catch-up on technology investments. Store and warehouse operation IT leaders immediately saw the benefit of mobilizing stationary labeling workflows. No longer was it necessary for labeling and print stations to be in a fixed location to connect to a stationary desktop PC.  

 

Fast-forward into the COVID pandemic years and many IT technology transformation projects were accelerated, primarily driven by the need to increase efficiencies in material handling due to labor shortages and sustained increased demand on struggling overtaxed supply chains. Additionally, the omnichannel effect of leveraging brick and mortar storefront locations as mini fulfillment and return centers drove the need for flexible eCommerce capability of pick, pack, and ship to many new places. All of this during ongoing labor shortages. 

 

With modern on-premise and cloud-based applications able to run on Android and iOS devices, now all of the tasks of picking, scanning, and barcode label printing can be done by the same worker, out on the retail or warehouse floor using a mobile computer device running label management software, and a rugged mobile label printer. Price shelf labels can be updated as needed, accelerating price changes without having to wait for a new shipment of updated labels to arrive in the mail. Shipping labels, packing slips, and inventory put away labels can now be done with mobile technology by a single worker, with Wi-Fi connected technology providing flexibility of warehouse layout for optimum workflow and not designing around AC outlets and ethernet ports on the floor or wall. 

 

Everyone uses mobile technology in their daily lives for shopping and communication. Workers expect to have the same tools on the job. With the new generation of workers and high turnover of employees across the retail industry, mobile technology provides improved worker satisfaction and quicker training for the tasks. Mobile hardware for scanning and printing, coupled with a solid label management system will continue to grow in 2024 and beyond, allowing the mobile workforce to get the job done with more efficiency, accuracy, and greater job satisfaction. 

 

2. Cloud-based platforms, now AI-driven, redefining processes in labeling & artwork management 

From Bob Tilling, VP of Global Sales, Kallik 

 

In 2024, we’re expecting the digital revolution to continue in the world of labeling and artwork management to overcome challenges and ensure compliance. Cloud-based platforms, now artificial intelligence (AI) driven, are redefining processes for greater efficiency, compliance, accuracy, and sustainability. Real-time error detection, swift collaboration, and automated compliance checks accelerate production while meeting strict regulations.

 

One of the key drivers propelling this growth is the remarkable cost efficiency brought by AI integration. Here at Kallik, we have seen AI in artwork management solutions slash implementation costs by up to 50%, primarily by automating the data migration process—a significant factor that historically deterred many businesses from migrating to digital platforms. Equally, this transition toward cloud-based, AI-driven systems aligns seamlessly with corporate sustainability objectives, minimizing environmental impact by reducing paper usage and wastage and making it easier to make bulk amends to labels to suit sustainable packaging changes.

 

We will continue to see companies embrace these advancements in 2024 to streamline operations, allocate resources strategically, and ensure adaptability in a rapidly evolving market. 

 

3. Trend in RAIN RFID will spur growth of the technology: Critical item attributes on-tag

From Chris Brown, RFID Subject Matter Expert, TSC Printronix Auto ID

 

There has long been a debate over the amount of data that should be stored on RAIN RFID tags. At one end of the spectrum, we have advocates for the “digital twin” concept. Digital twin tags store only a unique identifier, and further item information must be obtained from an external database. At the other end of the spectrum, we have advocates of storing detailed item attributes directly on the tag. At the extreme of this thinking, we have large memory tags into which data can even be added over time, such as maintenance records for aviation parts. In the middle, we have the relatively new compromise concept of storing a few critical item attributes directly on the tag, such as a date value or batch/lot number, and then if the user wants additional item information, they must reference a database.

 

This middle road is currently in trend for very good reasons. It is commercially feasible—the chips are only marginally more expensive than digital twin-type chips, and it works well technically—fast read speeds and minimal reading errors. It also makes good sense for many emerging RFID applications. In particular, the pharmaceutical and foodservice industries are working with GS1 to leverage GS1’s new encoding schemes that are based on this approach. The pharmaceutical industry is in industry-wide discussions that are driving towards the use of the new SGTIN+ encoding scheme. Tags encoded with SGTIN+ for the pharmaceutical industry will most likely include the critical item attributes of (expiration) date and batch/lot number directly in memory bank 01. A user in the field can quickly filter on a specific value (or even range of values with the pending GS1's Gen2 v3 spec that will be released soon), find the target items and use or remove the items from the value chain.

 

The foodservice industry is involved in similar discussions, but the favored encoding scheme is currently DSGTIN+, which is like SGTIN+, but DSGTIN+ requires that a date value be encoded (optional with SGTIN+) and the date value is “prioritized” (encoded and read early in the sequence).

 

GS1 US recently published two guidelines, one for pharmaceutical and the other for foodservice, outlining the use of these new middle-of-the-road encoding schemes. These guidelines are easy to read, informative and promote SGTIN+ for pharmaceutical source-tagging and DSGTIN+ for foodservice case/carton tagging. Assuming the RFID community can drive industry-wide clarity and agreement to use these new encoding schemes, RFID adoption will grow rapidly—proof of concept and pilot implementations are already well underway. 

 

Read more insights from Chris in 5 Industries That Leverage RFID for Better Traceability

 

4. Continued movement for supply chain sustainability in 2024 will impact labeling 

From Vivian Tai, Director of Innovation, GS1 US

 

Supply chain sustainability is a movement that is picking up acceleration. This priority is driven by consumer demand that is resulting in many companies rethinking their processes and materials and acting to be more sustainable and informative to their consumers. There will be a greater demand for information that can be accessible via labels. Consumers will expect access to contextually relevant information about products, such as: certifications, sourcing information, or even environmental impact disclosures, to inform purchasing decisions. At the same time, brands will find solutions that enable them to tell compelling stories for sustainability actions they are taking.   

 

This increase in demand for more information will change the future of labels and will evolve for this specific purpose. Different areas in the supply chain will require different types of labeling - in some instances, when we are looking towards first to second mile or in the post-consumer side of the supply chain, there may be benefits to using sensors, nanotechnologies, or biotechnologies for unique identification. 

 

In other instances, companies are responding to this increase in demand for more information by leveraging 2D barcodes. GS1 released their predictions and expectations for a substantial movement of 1D to 2D barcodes between now and 2027. 

 

Read more insights from Vivian in Supply Chain Sustainability and Its Impact on Future Labeling: An Interview with GS1 US

 

5. Predictions of a strong year for business in 2024, but not business as usual 

From Mary Lou Bosco, CEO, AIM North America 

 

AIDC technologies deliver what consumers currently want and regulators require—visibility into the origin of products, what they’re made from, who handled them and how they can be recycled or disposed of. With those macro trends growing and component shortages easing, AIM Global expects AIDC technology sales to grow in 2024.  

 

We also expect some new demand drivers to emerge that will not only boost interest in AIDC in 2024 but will take it in new directions. The European Union’s (EU) Digital Product Passport (DPP) regulation is being phased in and will require labeling changes for products sold in the EU. The DPP is intended to facilitate more information sharing across the value chain, and a variety of QR code, RFID, and other AIDC options are being developed to satisfy the requirement.  

 

Separately, in October 2023, Procter & Gamble’s CEO and board chairman has called for 2D symbols to replace traditional barcodes for all products sold at retail worldwide by 2027. Trends toward more information-rich, AIDC-enabled packaging and tracking are evident beyond retail and extend to distribution, production, foodservice, healthcare, and other areas. AIDC manufacturers and resellers should use 2024 to reexamine their product development and partnership strategies to prepare for a future where multiple technologies will converge to create more intelligent, connected products and ecosystems. 

 

Embrace tomorrow today: Navigating the labeling landscape for a sustainable, efficient & innovative future 

 

In 2024 and beyond, businesses are urged to stay agile, embracing these emerging trends and technologies to stay ahead of the curve. As labeling continues to play an important role in the broader context of supply chains and consumer expectations, the movement towards a more efficient, sustainable, and information-rich future creates opportunities for innovation and growth. 

 

Trust TEKLYNX to help you gain flexibility in your labeling environment, so your labeling process is agile enough to handle changes like those shared by these five industry experts. 

 

Request a free consult 

About Doug

 

Doug Niemeyer is the President & General Manager at TEKLYNX Americas. He leverages his 25+ years of sales & marketing experience in technology and leadership to help grow the business. His passion for leadership, insatiable curiosity, and competitive spirit help to drive success, encourage progress and development while ensuring teams hold positive customer experiences in the highest regard, all with the purpose of helping companies barcode better. When he is not working you can find him in a gym, on a field or golf course playing or coaching. 

 

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