CYBRA Unveils New Printing Solutions for Apparel Industry
November 2, 2010 Alex Woodie
As a provider of barcode printing and radio frequency identification (RFID) encoding solutions for the IBM i platform, CYBRA has worked with more than a few companies in the apparel business. With that customer experience as guidance, the New York City company is now rolling out new solutions that address some of the printing challenges faced by clothing manufacturers as they apply to item-level RFID tagging, fabric care labels, and the new Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards (VICS) colorized ticket guidelines.
Wal-Mart’s surprise summer announcement–that it was jumping straight into item-level RFID tagging after a disastrous seven-year experiment with pallet-level tagging–has the IT industry thinking positively about the possibilities of RFID once again.
Hope sprung anew in August after Wal-Mart announced that four categories of clothing–men’s jeans, T-shirts, socks, and underwear–would be the subject of a new mandate for item-level RFID tagging. Obviously, the world’s largest retailer is convinced that it can derive enough supply chain savings out of tracking items at the individual level to justify the addition of a 7-cent RFID tag. Time will tell if Wal-Mart’s suppliers will realize savings too, but at least for now, the RFID industry has something to move toward.
In response to Wal-Mart’s mandate, CYBRA moved to highlight its RFID tagging solutions, which run on IBM i and other platforms. These solutions include MarkMagic, which generates RFID tags, bar code labels, and other types of forms; and EdgeMagic, which is used to communicate with RFID devices and integrate that data back into ERP and WMS systems.
Harold Brand, CEO of CYBRA, says the new Wal-Mart initiative will open up new opportunities in 2011 for sales of RFID gear in the apparel and footwear industries. CYBRA is touting not only its capability to support Wal-Mart’s mandate, but the electronic product code (EPC) projects of other retailers like Dillards and JC Penney.
The uptick couldn’t have come any sooner, Brand says. “We bet the ranch on RFID. There was a lot of negative press, and people were getting nervous,” he says. “We felt sooner or later, the market conditions would be right to wake this thing up.”
CYBRA is also moving strongly into other aspects of the apparel business, namely the generation of fabric care labels and VICS colorized ticket guidelines.
In the case of the fabric care labels that are sewn into almost every article of clothing, CYBRA’s customers in the apparel manufacturing business felt they weren’t getting a good deal from the service bureaus that have traditionally served this market, according to Sheldon Reich, CYBRA’s vice president of solutions.
In response to this market opportunity, CYBRA worked to put together a package it could sell to customers, so they could print their own fabric care labels. In addition to MarkMagic software and services, CYBRA is selling a specialized fabric care label printer from Avery Dennison.
The new VICS color-coding chart posed more of a challenge. Under the new VICS plan, each item of clothing will include a color-coded ticket, where the particular color corresponds to the size of the item. The idea behind the VICS plan is to make it easier for retail store employees to re-hang clothing on the appropriate rack, so they don’t misplace it and end up having a customer buy the wrong size.
The challenge is the sheer number of colors used under the VICS plan. For a particular item of men’s clothing, for example, there may only be five different sizes: small, medium, large, extra large, and extra extra large. However, for some items of women clothing, there could be 48 different permutations of size and shape. For each of those, a different color ticket must be generated.
Reich, who spearheaded the development of a VICS solution for CYBRA, said the challenge was coming up with a printer that could generate the different colors, and not have the ink run when it gets wet. Thermal label printers, with their dot matrix heads, could not generate the variety of colors required. Ink jets could handle the colors, but the labels couldn’t handle the humidity of Southeast Asian clothing factories.
Reich found a VICS solution in laser printing. It does require a special kind of ink and label to handle the high humidity, but it will work for customers. “We worked on it quite a bit to come up with the combination of the right laser printer plus the special ink supply,” he says.
For more information on CYBRA’s solutions for the apparel industry, see www.cybra.com.