Faster Tagging with Zebra
After testing two types of RFID label printers, Fast Track Convenience chose the Zebra® RZ400™ printer to print UPM Raflatac ShortDipole tags.
With the Zebra printer, the company can print labels in batches, with more detail on the label, reducing tagging time.
"The Zebra printer is automating our tagging ten-fold. We'll reduce so much in labor and the cost of the tags," McGlathery said.
Sterling found the UPM Raflatac ShortDipole tags sturdier and less costly than the previous option—which adds up to significant savings of over 20,000 to 30,000 tags per month. The compact, low-profile pressure-sensitive label not only simplifies and speeds up on-demand printing and encoding, but makes the application as simple as conventional price-tagging.
Fast Track Convenience prints the Zebra tags in batches at its warehouse and that information goes right into a database. At the food production facility, workers tag all products before they head out to Fast Track Convenience store locations. Small Zebra tags more easily fit on the caps of drink bottles, compared to the foam predecessors.
"At our volume, the printer delivered a return on investment in less than six months," McGlathery said. "We're very, very happy with the new addition to our processes and it's having a major impact on the way we do business."
With some firmware customizations by Zebra, Sterling prints rich information on each tag. A single tag has the RFID inlay, and the printed price, food ingredients, location and expiration date—giving the warehouse and Sterling customers complete information to support inventory management. Plus, the company can easily change labeling to promote sales items.
"We have a ton of flexibility to mark products for specials or sales without adding a separate label," McGlathery said.
Sterling customers quickly embraced the Fast Track Convenience solution. The company now has more than a dozen Fast Track Convenience stores in southeastern Michigan. Hospitals, schools, fitness clubs and businesses added fully stocked convenience stores to their premises—without needing checkout staff.
Sterling owns the equipment and operates the convenience stores, while its customers provide space at their facilities. The company also provides fresh foods, as well as many other convenience store items such as packaged food and drinks, over-the-counter medicines and other sundries.
Customers bring their items to one of the checkout kiosks. An RFID reader automatically senses the tag and totals the costs, and customers then pay with cash or a credit card—all in about six seconds. Or, they can establish an account with the store and check out with a personal identification number, a magnetic stripe card such as a driver's license or employee ID, or even use their fingerprint for biometric verification.
If someone tries to leave the store without paying for an item, security gates detect the UPM Raflatac ShortDipole tags and sound an alarm that alerts the authorities. Additionally, backend software and reporting give Sterling rich sales and inventory data, without requiring manual assessment.