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RFID FOR REUSABLE CONTAINERS

Track what’s in the container or the container itself and ensure its timely return using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). At Metalcraft we get asked a lot of questions about RFID for specific applications and have complied some of the most frequently asked questions pertaining to RFID for Reusable Containers below. If you don’t see the question you would like answered please email us at faq@universalrfid.com and we’ll make sure to get you the answers you need.



Durability and high readability rates are high priorities for the tags on our containers, what are the tradeoffs?


You can have both – price is the primary tradeoff; however, with increased priced comes increased use and longevity which can ultimately lead to an increased ROI. For example, thermal transfer RFID labels are not as durable as subsurface printed, fully encapsulated RFID tags like the ones Metalcraft offers. The encapsulation process protects the inlay from environmental factors that could have an adverse effect on the inlay while the subsurface printing protects the barcode and human readable.


I must have 100% read rate, what are my options and cost tradeoffs?

Because the pallet or container can be filled with metal or liquids and often stacked on top of each other which can impact read rates, many users apply 2 to 4 matching RFID tags – one to each corner. While this does increase the cost and application time it also gets closer to the 100% read rate you are striving to achieve.


I have metal containers, how can I get good read ranges and attach my tags with minimum cost?

Using standard RFID tags with metal containers will not work because the metal will reflect the RF waves and detune the tag. There are many different types of metal mount tags on the market and have inlays designed to work with metal or use some type of standoff that will minimize the detuning. Metalcraft’s Universal RFID products work extremely well on metal surfaces as well as a variety of other application surfaces including plastic, wood and even liquid filled containers.


Will RFID work for pallets as well as plastic containers?

Yes, absolutely! This is a common practice in the reusable pallet industry. In addition, RFID labels can come in color coded sets to help make the application process faster.


I need tags that will stand up to our cleaning processes – will RFID tags?

In general the answer is yes; however, every cleaning process is different so testing is going to be very important to make sure that not only does the label survive repeated cleanings, but that inlay performance isn’t compromised. For example, thermal transfer RFID labels will not survive repeated cleaning processes nearly as long as subsurface printed, fully encapsulated RFID tags like the ones Metalcraft offers. The encapsulation process protects the inlay from the cleaning process while the subsurface printing protects the barcode and human readable from chemicals


My reusable packaging is stored outdoors. Is that a problem for RFID tags?

In general, no; however it is going to depend on how long you want the tags to last. For example, thermal transfer labels will not last nearly as long as subsurface printed, fully encapsulated RFID tags like the ones Metalcraft offers. The encapsulation process protects the inlay from the elements while the subsurface printing protects the barcode and human readable from environmental conditions including harmful UV rays that can fade surface-printed labels much faster.


I regularly wash my containers – is that a problem with RFID tags attached?

For most applications this is not a problem; however, every application is different and although we thoroughly test our tags in order to make sure they will perform in various conditions, the testing is done in laboratory-type conditions. Nothing replaces real world testing in the environment in which the tags are expected to perform. We strongly encourage customers to do their own testing and will provide free samples for them to do so.


My containers sit outside in all kinds of weather. Will my tags still work in sub-zero weather?

It is going to depend on how long you want the labels to last. For example, thermal transfer labels will not last nearly as long as subsurface printed, fully encapsulated RFID tags like the ones Metalcraft offers. The encapsulation process protects the inlay from environmental conditions while the subsurface printing protects the barcode and human readable from the elements. The readability of the tag at the sub-zero temperatures is going to be dependent on the operating temperature of the specific IC (integrated chip) used.


To speed the application of the labels and reduce the total cost of ownership I want the RFID serial number to match the printed barcode on the label – is this possible?

Yes, this is standard practice for Metalcraft’s RFID Tags


What elements should I put into my return on investment (ROI) calculation for an RFID tracking system for my reusable containers?

Start with the initial investment in labels, readers, software and installation of the system. Don’t forget to include the labor cost to apply the labels as it is often the most expensive and often overlooked. Another factor to consider is the average number of times per year the container will be reused before its useful life ends. A tracking system using RFID for returnable containers can be a great way to reduce cycle inventories, reduce the labor associated with taking inventory and is a great opportunity to collect additional data where you couldn’t afford to collect data before.


RFID for Reusable Containers Products


Standard RFID Tags





Universal RFID
Asset Tags





Onsite Printable Universal
Mini RFID Tags





Universal Mini
RFID Tags





Universal RFID
Hard Tags





RFID Hang Tags