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GS1’s best practices for automating carton inspections, sharing information with retailers

With this year’s renewed push for RFID in retail comes new opportunities to gather rich data on your products that provides valuable insights into your inventory. Thanks to our partners at GS1, you can share that data with your trading partners as your products move in the supply chain.

GS1 published detailed guidelines on the best practices for using electronic product code (EPC) labels at the carton/case level and sharing that information with your retailer. They also provide valuable insight into what happens to your products once your retailer receives them.

It is a long document. Here, we will share a few of the highlights to get you started.

Before we start: breaking down the EPC Label and EPCIS

An EPC label uses your product’s Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and combines it with a unique identifier. This combination enables you and the retailer receiving your product to uniquely identify the item. The GTIN is the 12-digit number you see under your UPC barcodes.

One UPC barcode benefit is that anyone who scans your product can interpret the data, enabling seamless receiving. The EPC label offers this same convenience for companies who use RFID. Companies use what is known as EPC Information Services (EPCSIS) to exchange product data.

GS1’S step-by-step process: factory-to-brand
To best collect and share your product data, GS1 recommends exchanging carton/case-level data to simplify the process.

Generate EPCIS events that tie item-level data to specific cartons or cases as you produce, pack, and ship the items.
As you generate events, the EPCIS repository captures their data so your trading partners can view the status.
Receive & read case shipments by positioning RFID readers along your conveyor belt.
Compare your EPCIS events to the conveyor’s RFID read data to assess which cases need further auditing.

For more information on this section, visit section 2.3 on page 12 of the GS1 guidelines document.

Making the handoff: brand-to-retailer
Now that you’ve prepared your products and shared your product data, it’s time to make the handoff to your retailer. Here’s how.

Your distribution center will collect item-level data.
Your distribution center structures item-level data into EPCIS for your retailer to read.
Upon receiving your product, your retailer will read the data and compare what they’ve read versus the information you sent them to assess if there needs to be more auditing.

To read more about this part of the solution process, navigate to section 3 on page 18.

The benefits of carton labeling in the factory
Your factory is the best place to capture and tie item-level data to cartons or cases.  GS1 recommends labeling at your packing stations or during inspection. Recording data at these points removes the need to manually scan and read each carton for inspection, which preserves space and reduces inspection time.

In addition, EPC labeling enables you to complete inspections faster using RFID readers mounted alongside your conveyor belt or packing tunnels. This method ensures even greater case pack accuracy.

Get the step-by-step guide
Download GS1’s implementation guideline for a more detailed solution process overview, helpful graphics, and EPCIS Events data samples.

Implementing your solution
As a certified GS1 Standards Professional, AB&R knows the ins and outs of EPC labeling and RFID. We will find the right tags for your work environment or that complies with your retailer’s mandate and provide ongoing support for all your RFID needs. Contact our specialists today.