Playing (EAS) Tag


Erik Swain

EAS tags are wrapped in an FDA-approved label and placed in vitamin or nutritional supplement bottles (photo courtesy of ADT Security Services Inc.).

The day may be coming when manufacturers, not retailers, can choose which kinds of electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags will be put on product packages to prevent theft, according to a packaging engineer from a firm at the forefront of the issue.

Grant Russian, a packaging engineer for McNeil Consumer Healthcare (Fort Washington, PA), a Johnson & Johnson company, said that the manufacturing community aims to develop a system that is compatible with all three major kinds of EAS tags: acoustic-magnetic, radio-frequency, and electromagnetic. His remarks were made at the annual seminar of the Eastern Equipment Committee of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (Naperville, IL), held March 12 in Secaucus, NJ.

This, he said, would allow manufacturers to put whatever tags they wanted on whatever products they wanted—possibly enlisting their packaging suppliers to do the job for them—without worrying about whether or not they would work at a particular retailer. While retailers often apply the tags themselves, they have started asking manufacturers to apply them beforehand, but manufacturers would rather not have to sort out three different kinds of tags, he said.

J&J is one of the firms that has taken the lead regarding this issue. The company is one of the four founders of the Consumer Product Manufacturers Association, which is trying to "create a global consensus and a standard for the industry that would drive down manufacturing and tag costs," Russian said. "We are getting pressure from the retailers to apply their tags to our products, so hopefully we can design a more optimal system." He noted that research for such a project is under way.

Retailers have not been greatly enthusiastic about the project because many of them have already invested heavily in one kind of EAS system. But, Russian said, because of all the mergers and acquisitions that have recently occurred in the retail industry, some corporations are using more than one technology.

The main supplier of acoustic-magnetic EAS technology at this time is Sensormatic Electronics Corp. (Boca Raton, FL); the main supplier of radio-frequency and electromagnetic EAS technologies is Checkpoint Systems Inc. (Thorofare, NJ).

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