Next Webinar: RFID Sensor Tags – The Current state and the Future of Wireless Sensing Applications – Learn more and register here

Sep 25, 2015

How to Optimize the Cost of Quality for UHF Tags?

When talking about high-end RFID performance testing solutions, I sometimes face the situation, where my customer is struggling to find room for the investment in their budget. After some return on investment (ROI) calculation, the case typically looks much brighter.

If we look at the overall quality cost structure in UHF tag manufacturing, I will dare to claim that, in many cases, even a single batch of poor quality can justify the ROI for decent RFID test equipment. The challenge here is though that the costs of being able to provide excellent and consistent quality are directly addressed to the production. In contrast, the charges induced from poor quality are inconspicuously scattered all around the corporate structure.

Where do I base the claim? Let me show you!

First of all, to lower the cost of poor quality, you need to invest in preventing failures and maintaining excellent quality. The great thing here is, though, that you get much more than your money back. If done right, each penny you invest is multiplied as savings in failure costs. This is how you balance the scale and minimize your total costs.

Let’s Do Some Math!

When a quality issue is found in the production, how much does it cost for an engineering team to troubleshoot, or a machine to stand by waiting for the next production batch to be started? I’m sure you know the figures better than I do, but what I do know is these problems take some hours to be solved, sometimes even days. I also know that the one-hour machine downtime in chip attachment makes at least 10 000 tags less manufactured. For a label converting process, it may be ten times more.

What if the problem was not detected when manufacturing the tags, but in an inspection process that was done on the batch afterward? How big is your typical batch? 100 000 tags? 5 000 000 inlays? In the worst case, you need to multiply that with the number of batches produced and with material costs per tag, and add on top of the engineering work and machine downtime.

Ok, now you just need to rework the whole batch, which means again capacity loss, as the machine time is used to reproduce what already was supposed to be delivered. The ball keeps rolling, and you’ll end up with shortages in your next deliveries, delays that cause inconvenience to the customers, and a headache to the management, sales, and customer support. So, just add up the machine time for rework, management, and support time, as well as customer dissatisfaction with the earlier equation.

Now, we are starting to talk about costs that are far more difficult to quantify. Customer satisfaction…

What if the defected batch didn’t remain as an internal issue? What if it reached the customer, who is struggling now with problems in his application? Now we’re starting to talk about external failure costs, which are not only harder to be measured, but also induce secondary effects and costs, like bad quality reputation. I know, impossible to be quantified. But if you just add the management cost due to the complaints and troubleshooting with the customer involved, and forget the fact that the customer may end up ordering his next tags from another supplier, we still have a significant pile of costs due to poor quality. Now would you believe me when I’m saying:

You Need to Balance the Scale to Minimize the Overall Cost of Quality

Unlike the above figure may suggest, the equilibrium point here would not necessarily be where the cost of poor quality equals the cost of good quality. The equilibrium point is reached when the efficient investments in the price of excellent and consistent don’t return more than their value in the costs of poor quality.

The graph below would represent an example situation, where the costs of good quality are linearly increased, resulting in considerable reductions in the price of poor quality at first. Eventually, the point is reached, where further improving the quality appraisal and failure prevention costs will not lower the failure costs as much.

If you calculate with your figures the overall cost for providing just a single batch of UHF tags with inferior quality to the customer, would you agree with me that these costs are just too high to accept frequently, or at all? This approach is only the tip of an iceberg. What eventually will happen, if the quality continuously keeps failing to meet the customer expectations, is you start losing business, surreptitiously, but deterministically.

Quality Reputation – Hard to Estimate, Easy to Forget

The quality reputation is easier to ruin than to be built. Building it from scratch takes time and effort. Trying to gain customer trust without hard evidence based on measured facts is challenging. Still, if you’re able to quantify the quality, as well as prove the quality is consistent, you’re in a wholly different position to win the customer.

We have various examples of customers who have taken the UHF tag quality seriously, all the way from design to production. There are customers like Michelin, who have decades of experience in manufacturing and quality control. They have the same approach in case of any new technologies. Why ruin the quality reputation you have successfully built for years? With Michelin, we worked on something a bit customized to be able to test tire tags that are very heavily over-tuned. Check out this interesting case study:

Michelin — Tire Tags with Consistent Quality

Customer Case Studies

What kind of figures did you come up with on your overall cost of quality? Would you like to talk more about balancing your scale as well? Please contact us, and let’s figure out how we could lower your quality costs and increase your profitability! For the first 20 people to contact me, I promise to make free of charge tag measurements.

Solutions for RFID productions

Sep 14, 2015

National UHF RFID Standards and RFID Performance

ISO 18000-63 (6C, EPC Class 1 Gen 2) has been by far the most used UHF RFID standard for several years. There have been some competing standards such as Tagidu, IP-X (tag-talks-only), and ISO18000-62 (6B), but they are nowadays rarely used in new applications. However, new RFID standards still emerge: for example, in Brazil, SINIAV has created a protocol aimed for vehicle tracking applications. In China, a new UHF standard, GB/T29768-2013, has been recently published.

Several tag manufacturers work with these new standards. Why do these national RFID standards exist? And what does it mean for performance testing?

Why Doesn’t Everyone Work with the Same Standard?

Since there is a well-working global standard, it would sound logical to use it for as many applications as possible. But there are some reasons for using something else as well. There may be national interests, or maybe there are special requirements that existing standards don’t cover well enough. For example, ISO 18000-63 was developed for quickly inventorying large quantities of items, and it may not be optimal for reading a single tag that is passing by at 180 km/h. Another challenge may be when the tag is in the windshield of a truck filled with other tagged items.

It should also be noted that the division to separate standards does not always have to be final. Commonly, new functionalities and exclusive features are absorbed into the global standard after they are validated.

What is the Difference Between the Different Standards?

When we talk about passive UHF RFID, we talk about readers that radiate between 860 to 960 MHz to power up remote tags, which in turn modulate their reflection to communicate back to the reader. That is common between all passive UHF RFID standards.

The difference is in how the readers and tags modulate the electromagnetic waves, and what kind of command and response sequences are used in the communication.

One standard might be optimized for quick inventorying while another might provide added security.

Besides, the complexity of the protocol affects the power consumption of the chip and, thus, the read range that can be acquired.

What do the National Standards Mean for Tag Manufacturers

So how should a tag manufacturer respond to a customer’s request to make a tag for a less widely used UHF RFID standard? Well, that depends on the opportunity. But there is nothing to be afraid of in the design process – it is no different from ISO 18000-63 tags. The Voyantic Tagformance system supports performance testing of the GB and SINIAV protocols (as well as older ISO 18000-62 and IP-X protocols).

With the Tagformance system, it is quick to characterize a UHF RFID tag regardless of the protocol: just choose which protocol is to be used in testing and then start the selected test. Results include (but are not limited to) information about the tag sensitivity, read range, tuning, and radiation pattern.

Application Developers

New RFID standards are often used in new application areas. With the Voyantic’s Field Engineer’s Kit, RFID tags can be tested within the application – for example, when attached to a vehicle. Vehicles are an example of a quite challenging environment for RFID because of their large metal parts and a variety of different plastic and glass types where tags are mounted. Thus, field test results are crucial.

Typical field tests aim to verify the read range. The Tagformance system can be used in evaluating what kind of read range can be achieved with different readers – without actually using the readers. Based on the tag measurements and the reader information input by the reader, the system shows the achievable read range, but also which tag or reader parameter is the bottleneck for system performance.

Download the Tagformance Pro Catalogue

Learn more about the Voyantic Tagformance® Pro Test Device! By combining RAIN RFID and NFC testing into one compact test device, our all-new Tagformance Pro is a true all-in-one tool for anyone either developing or using RFID technology.