Wilson Sports bats 99+ compliance with Zebra RFID technology

When Wilson Sports moved on deck to address Wal-Mart's call for the next round of suppliers to meet the retailer's RFID mandate, the Chicago-based sports equipment company turned to Zebra Technologies to ensure solid performance. Wilson selected Zebra R110Xi printer/encoders for labeling shipments outbound for Wal-Mart with Alien Technology EPC Gen 2 Squiggle tags.
By Frank O Smith, senior contributing editor (fosmith@thewritinggroup.com) September 1, 2008

When Wilson Sports moved on deck to address Wal-Mart ‘s call for the next round of suppliers to meet the retailer’s RFID mandate, the Chicago-based sports equipment company turned to Zebra Technologies to ensure solid performance. Wilson selected Zebra R110Xi printer/encoders for labeling shipments outbound for Wal-Mart with Alien Technology EPC Gen 2 Squiggle tags.

“One of the reasons we went with Zebra was the ability to do a quick implementation,” says Ed Matthews, director of information services. “We were going through a major upgrade at the same time with [enterprise systems vendor] SAP and wanted something quick and simple.”

Matthews had great confidence in selecting Zebra for having pioneered one of the earliest Wal-Mart-compliant implementations while with Madison, Wis.-based Pacific Cycle . Even still, Matthews and his team put Zebra through the paces in tests against competitive systems to see just how RFID technology had matured with time.

“We ran tests with competitors to ensure it was the right choice,” he says.

The quality of tags coming out of the printer/encoders and the read rates both performed nearly faultless, with 99+ performance on both counts.

“I knew Zebra to have good products to begin with, but was impressed at even how much better they were,” says Matthews. “Costs have come down, and the technology is much more plug-and-play.”

The Zebra R11oXi printer/encoder in use by Wilson Sports is XML-enabled for seamless integration with applications running on SAP Auto ID Infrastructure (AII).

The Zebra R11oXi is XML-enabled for seamless integration with applications running on SAP Auto ID Infrastructure (AII) hosted on an IBM AS/400. Order information is easily translated into smart label formats that the Zebra printer/encoder manages as output to tags.

Each label includes human-readable text, a bar code, and an EPC number encoded to the Gen 2 tag. Tags are then hand-applied to cases and pallets for shipment. When the SAP migration upgrade is complete, Wilson plans to integrate RFID data more comprehensively with its operations by encoding additional information such as ship-to address, SKU number, and item quantity.

Matthews says Wilson has been pleased with RFID tag performance, especially given potential challenges with metal baseball bats and tennis rackets. The company has experienced no degradation of read performance due to interference from metal.