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May 03, 2021

Analysis of the Cost of RFID Quality – And How (Not) to Lose a Customer

We hosted a webinar on managing quality in RAIN RFID and NFC manufacturing. During the session, industry experts shared their views on setting quality goals, on the relevant standards, and on best practices for quality testing through case examples and practical tips. While veterans in RFID quality testing recognize the need for it to achieve excellent and consistent quality, for many less experienced in the field, it can be puzzling to justify the investment for the required RFID test equipment.

With this in mind, it is worthwhile to explore whether the cost of good quality in the context of RFID is justifiable. In an earlier blog post, we discussed optimizing the cost of quality. In this post, we give an example analysis of RFID quality costs.

Analysis of the Cost of RFID Quality

Typically, the three main process steps in smart label manufacturing are chip attach, converting, and personalization. While the process details are specific to the manufacturer and machine, the analysis methods are universal:

  • Failure analysis: What is the impact of possible machine failures?
  • Process analysis: How do quality defects impact the process?
  • Cost analysis: What is the cost of quality defects?
Three main processes in smart label manufacturing

To remain in scope, our example analysis focuses on the cost impact of non-performing RFID tags in production. The case analysis is inspired by the case study presented by our customer Lab ID in our previous webinar session. In our modified case example, we are tasked with the delivery of 1 million labels to a customer. Let us assume that our manufacturing process has a yield of 98%. Out of the 1 million produced tags, 2% would be non-performing, meaning that these tags are bad quality or out of specification. Confronted with this reality, there are three possible actions to address non-performing tags which are described in the picture below.

Different scenarios that can play out based on the action taken to address quality testing and deal with bad tags

The first one is the baseline scenario for the case. We assume that cost and sell price per tag are 0.08 and 0.1, respectively. This leaves us with a margin of 20% for this production lot. In this scenario, we do not take into account any potential cost impact of 2% non-performing tags.

Base scenario – 2% of tags are non-performing

In the next scenario, we ride our luck and deliver all tags without addressing the bad ones. Thankfully, the customer does not notice any defects this time. While the 2% of non-performing tags did not have any repercussions on our margins, the last two scenarios showcase how repeating the action might bite us back the next time. We also do not consider the implications of how the bad tags will inevitably affect our customer’s business.

We get lucky – customer does not notice delivered bad tags

We can also do something about the bad tags. In the third scenario, we decide to test our tags and mark the bad ones during production. This would incur costs in the form of initial tester investment (a capital expenditure that is omitted from the costs of this single production lot) and marker ink (a largely negligible running cost). Marking the tags does not introduce extra production processes or require an operator to supervise the machine. With the help of the tester, we are able to mark the non-performing tags out of the 1 million. This sees our margins decrease slightly (20% to 18%) as we do not charge the customer for the bad tags.

Alternatively, we can also decide to test and then remove bad tags during production. Aside from the initial equipment investment as with the previous scenario, this also requires additional steps in the production, e.g. by handling non-performing tags with a splicing table and changing them to a normal one. This process also requires an operator overseeing the production process which induces additional costs. For our analysis, we assume this removal of a bad tag is ten times the normal cost of producing a tag. This would add a somewhat significant cost to us but our margins remain positive at 2%. Worth considering in this scenario is customers’ willingness to pay more for rolls with 100% working tags. This could help offset the extra costs associated with tag removal.

Testing tags – in both scenarios we can achieve a positive margin

Next, we deliver all tags, 98% good and 2% bad. This time neglecting quality has consequences: the customer notices defects in our delivery, returns the lot, and demands we rework them to reach the promised quality. This requires us to find the non-performing tags from the lot and replace them with good-quality ones. For our analysis, we assume all that tag replacement hassle along with the changes to production planning costs us 25 times the normal cost of producing a tag. Not only have our margins turned negative, but we also need to deal with an annoyed customer whose plans have been disrupted.

Final two scenarios – not testing tags can have grave financial and reputational consequences

In the final “doomsday” scenario, after delivering the production lot, the customer detects the defects, simply returns the lot, and stops doing business with us. Revenue for this production lot has been lost, our customer relationship is severely damaged and our reputation as a tag manufacturer is also at risk. Not addressing quality issues and providing no quantifying proof of quality can have severe consequences. As shown, a single batch of tags mixed some with inferior quality can do much more harm than expected.

Loss of customer relationships is difficult to measure in costs

Being able to quantify quality puts tag producers in a superior position to win and establish trust with customers. Getting there requires effort but as shown in our example it is a worthwhile pursuit in the long run. We are happy to help with your needs in getting there. A good resource to start with is our webinar on managing quality in RAIN RFID and NFC manufacturing.

On-Demand Webinar

Quality Management Approaches in RAIN RFID and NFC Manufacturing

Apr 26, 2018

Smart Labels – Great Opportunity for Traditional Label Companies

中文版 Chinese version

Smart labels are one of the most common RFID tag types, especially in retail business, but also in numerous applications in other industries. Increasing acceptance of RFID and the double-digit growth rate of inlay/tag volumes in the past years have made smart labels an attractive business segment not only for the established RFID companies, but also for the traditional label manufacturers.

The barrier for a label company to enter the RFID/smart label business is very low as their core business comprises of printing and converting anyways – adding “inlay insertion” or “inlay lamination” to the converting process will increase the label manufacturer’s value-add and enables meeting the customers’ RFID and IoT requirements.

The Smart Label Opportunity

Label market is a big business, but expected to grow only a few percent a year, which is roughly double compared to print market in general though. The big opportunity lies in smart labels where CAGR of 15 to 20 percent is expected in the coming years, thanks to continuous tag cost reduction and huge amount of new application areas utilizing RFID technology.

Retail industry has been working long and very hard to utilize RFID technology and counts for the biggest tag volumes as of today. If one of the initial drivers justifying RFID in the early days was efficiency improvement in logistics, today there is an increasing number of drivers and quantified value-add right next to the consumers:

  • Integrated customer experience in omni-channel environment
  • Customer engagement and consumer interaction
  • Unmanned stores
  • Freshness and cold-chain tracking
  • Labeling obligations by authorities
  • Anti-counterfeiting measures.

RFID is the dominating technology today in smart labels, and RFID labels are successfully used to address all the requirements mentioned above. The big volumes of smart labels are typically produced by key players in RFID industry, i.e. either inlay/tag manufacturers or converters, however there are also several smart label producers focusing on specialized tags and applications. Integrated part of the smart label business are also the value-add services like tag performance testing and encoding of product and supplier specific information in each tag.

The current suppliers will certainly increase their capacity as the demand grows, but at the same time there is an opportunity window open for new entrants to take their share of the smart label market and related services.

How to Make Your Labels Smart?

Smart labels based on RFID technology (RAIN and/or NFC) are produced with a dedicated converting machine laminating the RFID inlays between the top material and the liner as shown in image below.

The selection of suitable RFID inlay type and supplier would be based on the RFID application and customer specification or alternatively smart label manufacturer’s own specification. Below image by permission from BW Papersystems, from their Speedliner RFID Converting machine brochure, illustrates RFID converting principle:

It is not only about manufacturing though, as smart label production brings also new requirements for the process:

  • Functional and/or performance testing to manage the RFID tag quality
  • Encoding capability to store customer specific data in each tag.

The good news is that these capabilities can be integrated in converting machines and they create the value-add service opportunity. Smart labels can be an entry point to the RFID value chain for a traditional label company with increased turnover and profits.

Testing and Encoding Added-value

With the increasing tag volumes and adoption of RFID, the demand for RFID testing has grown even faster. This is caused by the fact that many RFID applications are fully integrated in various business processes where basic requirement is that each tag can be read reliably every single time in the field – otherwise the efficiency of the process would collapse.

Accordingly, the RFID end-users are setting more requirements for quality assurance in RFID production and demanding actual performance measurement instead of simple pass/fail testing by RFID readers.

RFID Performance Testing

Ensuring high smart label quality (= successful read in the field) requires more than simple pass/fail testing with a RFID reader. More reliable performance testing can be done by measuring the tag sensitivity in production line with variable power levels and several frequencies using RFID production tester.

Voyantic Tagsurance inline production testers can be used in single and multi-lane configurations (up to 6 lanes) integrated with various 3rd party RFID machines, like Mühlbauer CL Light RFID Converting Line pictured here.

The same Tagsurance solutions are also available for Voyantic Reelsurance and several 3rd party offline test machines for sample testing of finished labels or incoming inspection of the outsourced RFID inlays.

Encoding and Personalization

New requirements are set also for encoding functionalities as new RFID applications and users are emerging. There is a growing need for managing deliveries of special tags with customer specific memory content, often with short delivery time and rather small batches. Encoding functionality can be integrated either in converting machines or alternatively done in dedicated offline personalization machines.

Voyantic has recently introduced a new multifunctional reel-to-reel machine, Reelsurance Pro to cover both testing and personalization needs for UHF and HF tags. Reelsurance Pro is a small footprint machine with emphasis on flexibility: the functionalities are extensive and the turn-around time between different label configurations is short.

How To Learn More?

If you are considering making your labels smart, please contact us to schedule an online meeting to discuss your needs. You can also learn more of our production testing solutions and download brochures describing Voyantic solutions with our machine vendor partners on our website.

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Apr 14, 2018

RAIN RFID Maturing, BLE on the Rise – Report from RFID Journal Live! 2018

I have been going to the biggest RFID shows for 12 years now. In 2007, it was RFID World in Grapevine, TX. And for the last ten years, it has been RFID Journal Live!. Once again, I flew to Orlando to find out what is new and exciting in RFID. And I have to conclude that not much. Which is pretty much what I also said last year.

RAIN RFID Industry Maturity

But while nothing new might be bad for RFID Journal Live!, it is not necessarily bad for the RFID industry. It may be just a sign of maturing. The development of an industry is often described with the industry maturity S-curve, which could look something like the one below for RAIN RFID. All the market data suggests that the RAIN RFID market is growing fast, so I would assume that we are currently in the growth stage.

RAIN RFID industry maturity curve

What is typical of the growth stage, compared to the earlier embryonic stage, is that the industry is more focused on process innovation than on product innovation. As a result, we are not really seeing new game-changing products. Rather the technology companies are working hard in producing the existing ones more efficiently, which should eventually lead to lower costs which further supports market growth. And there were some signs of that at the show. First of all, many technology providers were talking about growing volumes, and investing in manufacturing equipment. And on the supply side, BW Papersystems launched a new chip bonding machine that could improve manufacturing capacity.

We are seeing the same trend at Voyantic as well. While at the beginning of the decade, technology providers were in the need of tools for designing tags, the focus has shifted into production testing equipment. And Voyantic’s latest launch of the Reelsurance Pro for RAIN RFID and NFC testing and encoding follows the same trend, improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process.

But There Was Something New After All

Even if we are further along the maturity curve with most RFID technologies, new S-curves will continue to arise. Secure RAIN RFID according Gen2V2 is evolving, and EM Microelectronic has launched new ICs that present a significant advancement in that field. I feel this market is still in the embryonic stage, and there is a lot to do in building up the market.

But above all, what surprised me was that Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) has made its way into the product portfolios of many traditional RFID tag manufacturers. And to top it off, HID Global even won the Best New Product Award with its Bluetooth sensor beacon. I guess it is a matter of opinion, whether you want to call BLE RFID. But it is definitely a related technology. Maybe we need to stop positioning the different technologies against each other and accepting that we need different technologies for different applications – all providing a gateway to the Internet of Things.

Nov 03, 2017

Managing RAIN RFID Production Quality

中文版 Chinese version

RAIN RFID use has grown rapidly and implementations are expanding. Nowadays RFID is business as usual and quality management is an essential part of normal business operations. In past few years the RFID industry has learned a lot about quality management methods and processes. In my opinion there is still room for improvement. Quality really matters in RAIN tag manufacturing as high readability of tags is expected practically in all applications. In this text I describe how some quality management principles relate to tag manufacturing.

Continual Improvement in RFID Tag Manufacturing


One of the key principles in ISO 9000 quality standard series is continual improvement and accordingly

  • quality must be measured;
  • results need to be analyzed; and
  • operations will be improved.

There are two ways to look at the quality:

1 – Quality of design is measured against the properties (e.g. features, functionalities, performance) the supplier intends to deliver to the customer. Improvements can be driven for example by new kind of customer requirements, changes in competing products and availability of new components.

Typical performance measures for RAIN tags are sensitivity/read range and orientation pattern, performance on different materials (tagged items) and in proximity of other tags. Additionally, for example memory options, command support, mechanical design and dimensions and durability are ingredients of design quality.

Improving Quality of design is responsibility of the R&D and usually requires new product development, e.g. modifying the antenna geometry. Improvement cycles are relatively long.

2 – Quality of manufacturing describes how much variation there is in performance of the key properties compared to the defined design quality.

In RAIN tags the typical measure of quality is sensitivity. For example: Sensitivity of the tag attached to PVC plastic, with 915MHz frequency is -20dBm +/- 0.5dB. In this example the -20dBm is design quality and +/-0.5dB is variation describing manufacturing quality.

In managing Quality of manufacturing the performance is measured by the quality organization and corrective actions can be implemented very quickly.

The basic methods for controlling quality in tag manufacturing are sample testing and continuous in-line testing.

RAIN Tag Manufacturing Quality Control

One single solution doesn’t fit all RAIN tag manufacturing processes, but the principles of applying either sample testing using an off-line tester or implementing the tester into the production machines to enable 100% in-line testing are universal.

Sample Based Testing

For example, with 100,000 tags daily production, 99% confidence level with 2% margin of error requires about 4,000 tags to be tested. In practice, 1-2 tested tag rolls per day per manufacturing line would be the statistically valid sample size. Voyantic Reelsurance handles the testing automatically after the testing is initialized. Several rolls per day can be tested with one machine, and the system produces full quality logs. Reelsurance is an example of an off-line reel-to-reel tester capable of testing RAIN tags either in inlay or label form. The testing capability is based on integrated Tagsurance tester.

100% Testing and Quality Log

Voyantic Tagsurance tester can also be integrated with various manufacturers’ chip attach, converting or personalization machines enabling 100% testing.

The testing creates a log file that can include TID and EPC codes of the tested tags, as well as test results. This is a handy tool for communicating 100% test results. The data can be used for finding out statistical information from the manufacturing quality: variation, standard deviation, percentiles, mean values.

Real-time Visibility to Production Quality

When information is available for the production line operator real time, it is easy to see when quality starts to deviate, and corrective actions can be taken immediately, without sacrificing production yield.

RFID Tag Manufacturing and Six Sigma

A typical output from a tag manufacturing process used to be skewed normal distribution with additional second peak as shown in the picture across wide frequency band: the “stray” tags made it impossible to implement Six Sigma to the letter. Instead, deviating tags can be sorted out, and Six Sigma limits may be used for the remaining part.

Developments in new RFID chips have changed the situation. Some tag models can be manufactured with normal distributed sensitivity variation. It is possible to implement Six Sigma quality control, maybe with 4-sigma limits to start with.

Contact us to arrange an on-line demo and to discuss more about quality control in RAIN RFID tag manufacturing!

Jun 16, 2017

When Buying Tags – Ask the Right Questions

中文版 Chinese version

I frequently lecture in RFID training events, and now and then, a question comes up from RFID users and system integrators: “When buying RAIN RFID tags, what should we ask from suppliers, and what should we tell the potential supplier?”. I asked the same question from some RFID tag manufacturers and spiced the answers up with my own experiences and collected the following summary from the answers.

How to Get a Good Quotation for RFID Tags

Plenty of information is related to the tag selection. The more information that can be given to the tag supplier, the easier it is for them to propose a good tag. And the better questions you ask, the better answers you get, and the easier it is to make an educated decision. At the same time, it is essential to keep the focus – what is important for the project at hand and what can be left out.

The issues to consider and communicate are in the following areas:

  • Use case – what can I tell about the tag use
  • Tag functionality
  • Tag format, shape and size
  • Durability requirements
  • Performance requirements
  • Delivery format and quantities
  • Printing and encoding needs
  • Quality data
  • Delivery terms and pricing
  • Change management
  • Additional services from the supplier

There are plenty of questions under each of these areas. Download our free RAIN RFID tag buyer’s guide to get a more comprehensive understanding and an example request for a quotation!

Download the RFID Tag Buyer’s Guide

Learn what to ask when buying RFID tags.
Get our example request for quotation to help you get relevant quotes.

Jan 09, 2017

Testing Requirements of NFC/RAIN RFID Dual Frequency Labels in Production

中文版 Chinese version

There are applications, where fast data collection and high read distances of RAIN RFID (UHF) tags fulfill the overall application requirements only partially. Especially the missing capability of a consumer to easily access the tag contents limits the usability for marketing, product information and authentication purposes. A NFC tag would remove that limitation but also induce additional costs and complexity to the label finishing stages: double encoding and possible data compliance verification between these two tags. Interestingly the first IC chip with both high frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) communication interface was launched in 2015 by EM Microelectronics. In this text I will take a closer look at the quality aspects of dual interface tags: How do you verify that each tag produced meets its specification?

Is It Sufficient to Test the Performance of Either Interface to Guarantee the Performance of the Tag?

Let’s dig into the tag structure a bit to understand more detailed where the performance comes from. The chip itself is one complete entity with two interfaces for each frequency. This allows conveniently accessing the memory locations of the chip through either HF/NFC interface using for example your mobile phone, or through UHF interface by for example the retail in-store inventory system. On the inlay level there are still two separate antennas; one that is used for HF coupling and the other for UHF field communication. Both of these antenna structures are connected to the IC through separate chip I/Os. Below we can see an example of such a tag design from Lab ID:

There is certainly some coherence in the process quality for both interfaces, as the antennas are both processed simultaneously, and a single chip is assembled to work with both, but is it enough to guarantee the good performance for both if only one interface is tested? Based on some further analysis on possible failure mechanisms, the answer to the question is

No, it is not!

NFC and RAIN Performance on a Dual Interface Label Needs to be Separately Tested

We ran some tests using both Tagsurance UHF and Tagsurance HF testers to identify less sensitive tags from a roll of dual frequency tag samples. The test setup for testing dual frequency tags consists of two separate Snoop Pro coupling elements – one for UHF testing and one for HF testing – and a Tagsurance unit connected to each of them.

One graphical user interface handles both testing units and gathers the test results and read data from each tag in a combined log file. Based on this information we were able to identify tags with lower performance either on UHF communication or in HF communication. In many failed samples the performance had decreased in both interfaces. In the graphs below we can see the UHF performance on upper graph and the HF performance on lower graph for a normal tag (white curve) and for a tag with decreased performance (red).

This is not always the case though, as we could also identify tags where one interface was performing good, but the other one was either not functional at all, or the performance was just significantly lower compared to normal level of variation in the sample set. In the graphs below there’s the UHF performance and the HF performance of four tags; one normal (white curve), one with decreased UHF performance and normal HF performance (blue) and one with decreased HF performance and normal UHF performance (green). There you can also find one tag with decreased UHF performance and HF performance slightly better than the typical tag (orange).

NFC/RAIN RFID Combo Test Solution Is Available

As always with disruptive new technology, it takes some time for the components and new manufacturing technologies to fully mature. As this brief study shows, the performance of either interface can vary independently of each other, even if they are integrated on the same IC. Therefore both interfaces should be tested in production.

Voyantic provides turn-key solutions for testing of all your RFID production. With our equipment you can test your RAIN RFD tag; HF/NFC tags with ISO 15693, ISO 14443A, ISO 14443B, Felica and ISO 18000 3M3 protocol; and dual frequency tags. We would be happy to tell you more and tailor the best suited solution for your exact requirements!

Download our new Application Note about testing of UHF, HF/NFC and dual frequency tags, giving a detailed understanding on the equipment and test setup used in production. Contact us to learn more!

Learn How to Test Dual Frequency Tags

Download our application note to learn how to get things right the first time when testing UHF RFID, HF/NFC and dual frequency tags!

Jul 08, 2016

Downgrading Your Spec Does Not Make a Quality Tag – Thoughts About RFID Quality

中文版 Chinese version

I work as the CEO of Voyantic, a company that specializes in RFID test and measurement equipment. Since our systems are used by hundreds of companies around the world, we often come across cases where a customer needs our help to verify that their tags work as they should. This is a story about a case where things went wrong.

Tagging Athletes in Cross-country Skiing

We got involved with a very interesting case a couple of years ago. A small RFID integrator that we have known for some time wanted to tag athletes in a cross-country skiing competition. The idea was to use RFID for timing the race. And you can guess that if someone spends several hours on the ski track, being left without a race time is definitely not an option.

Cross-country skiing is a healthy hobby and also a good application for RFID timing – Photo by Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

There are many different ways to tag athletes in timing solutions. Common approaches in running competitions include integrating the RFID tags to the race bibs or attaching them to the shoes of the runners. However, in this case, the chosen approach was to buy wrist-band tags and to attach them to the ankles of the skiers. The tags were read by fixed readers that were set up on the side of the tracks.

The integrator went through the specifications of several different wrist-band tags and finally contacted a fairly well known maker of specialty tags for some samples. The samples arrived the following week, and the integrator ran some field tests. Everything worked well. He was able to detect every skier that passed the reader antenna.

So the integrator decided to order the tags that he needed for his application. Once again, there was a timely delivery of correct amount of tags. However, when he started to build the application, he noticed that not all of the tags were working. A typical discussion between an unsatisfied customer and a worried supplier followed.

The conclusion was that all the supplied tags worked according to the specification.

The tag manufacturer tested both working and non-working tags attached to the wrist of whoever they considered to be their standard-human. All tags were readable from a distance of 2 m which was the specification. But they didn’t all work in the end application. How is this possible?

Analysis

We got involved with the case at this point. We were asked to take a look at the tag samples to try to understand what was going on. So we ran a performance test for the tags using the Tagformance measurement system. The results from the Threshold Sweep measurement are shown below.

Performance variations of wrist-band UHF RFID tags measured with the Tagformance system

We tested the tags in free air, so they were not attached to a wrist or an ankle. But even in this setup it is clearly visible that there are significant variations in the tuning and performance of the tags. So this is what we think happened:

  1. The integrator decided to use the tags differently from what the manufacturer had specified
  2. The first samples sent by the tag manufacturer performed clearly above the spec
  3. The integrator concluded that this tag will work in the application
  4. The next tag batch – even though still within the original spec – performed differently
  5. A part of the tags didn’t work.

So, it is very hard to point fingers in this case. But there is something that the RFID industry needs to improve in. The industry is already doing a decent job in reporting the performance of their tags, e.g. in expected read range. But I think there is a lot to improve in how performance variations are reported, because that is a key factor in building reliable RFID systems.

And what happened with the skiing competition? Did the integrator get the system to work? He did. But he had to manually test through the tags and hand-pick the ones that worked well enough. Hardly a perfect outcome but every skier got their time.

My company Voyantic specializes in test and measurement solutions for the RFID industry. Are you interested to learn more about RFID quality control? Download our sample quality test report and contact us.

Download the Sample Quality Test Report!

See what performance testing can tell you about a tag – and how this data can be used to improve your production quality

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

Jun 29, 2015

High Performance UHF Tags with Shorter Time to Market

The majority of the UHF inlay designers have already come to realize that the right measurement solutions are the critical factor for seeing all you need on the UHF inlay performance. There’s not much of those guys anymore, who run around with the tags, checking with a reader how far you can go until the tag can’t be read anymore. Not only is this kind of measurement inaccurate, but it also doesn’t give any indication of what kind of changes are necessary for the next iteration in the design.

In my work as a Product Manager at Voyantic, I have seen the accurate, communication based, wide frequency band measurements for the UHF tags become more or less the de-facto standard of the industry in tag design. Now I’m happy to see the tag manufacturers widely adopting the performance testing also in production quality assurance.

So from design to production – why should you measure tag performance?

Quality from Design to Production

The measurement solution giving visibility to the UHF tag performance throughout its wide operation frequency range helps the designer to see exactly how the tag performs and understand what modifications are required to improve it. This enables faster development cycle times by providing high-performance UHF tag designs with shorter time to market.

This same yields to the production quality as well. Let’s take an example of a new product introduction, where an inlay design is brought to the production floor for the first time. If the RFID test equipment in the manufacturing machines can only tell whether the tag is functional or not, the batch will typically be taken to a very comprehensive and time-consuming first article inspection in the lab.

Imagine the reduced downtime!

If the samples are analyzed in the lab, not only does it take much time, but also the corrective actions can be implemented after this detailed analysis step. Imagine making a similar analysis on the production floor during the first batch manufacturing. Making the fine-tuning of the process on the go and reducing the time to market and machine downtime. In addition to the high-speed process compatible performance testing, the Tagsurance UHF testing equipment can also handle this more detailed analysis job.

Performance testing reduces the overall cost of quality without creating a bottleneck to the process.

Regardless of the process, there are always benefits in the performance testing of the tags. In the chip assembly, it is clear, the performance of the tag is created in this process when the chip is attached to the dipole antenna structure. In label converting, the main thing is to verify that this performance is maintained, but a reader can only check the tag still functions. The functional testing does not allow visibility in what is going wrong when the failures start occurring, and it can’t detect all the abnormalities and poorly performing tags, which then end up in the application use.

With the right tools, I’ve seen young startups reaching the same quality level with their UHF tag products as the big players of the market in no time. Without having to go through years of learning, in the worst-case learning from the failures noticed not until in the end customer application. This is the critical thing when balancing your overall cost of quality; investing in quality appraisal and failure prevention will spare your investment many times in the failure costs.

Let’s Take the RFID Industry to the Right Direction

Together! I have had the pleasure of working with so many quality-conscious RFID experts in the past years and have enjoyed seeing how much improvement you can make with the right tools in a short time. The increase of interest in production quality and implementations of Tagsurance UHF RFID testing solutions during the past year has made me gain confidence in the UHF RFID. It will no doubt be the technology to enable reliable, repeatedly functioning applications, without component level surprises in the application piloting stage.

Thank you for your interest! If you have any questions or want to start a discussion on how you could improve your RFID quality, let’s talk more! If you want to learn more detailed on what type of test data you could achieve in production, download the full sample roll test report below.

Learn Exactly What We Can Find Out on a Roll of UHF Tags!

Download a full Voyantic sample roll test report with full visibility to the performance of each and every tag on the roll, far field measurement results on selected tags and optimized production test scenarios for different process throughputs.