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Refurbishing Labeling Requirements

Refurbishing Labeling Requirements

by , , RLA Standards Committee

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 101

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The Refurbishing industry continues to mature. Once considered as scavengers, they have evolved into a necessary dimension of our need for sustainability. The market for re-use and refurbishment has shown to be a critical component in a society conscious of our need to conserve the earth’s resources and not treat the planet as an expendable garbage dump.

With the elevation of the industry status comes the responsibility to help the industry self-regulate as corporate citizens. Every industry has grown through its infancy stages with fly-by-night players and lack of quality standards. In the food industry, the frankfurter was called a “hot dog” because that was thought to be the main ingredient. The R2 standards are going a long way to structure the electronics refurbishment business.

However, re-labeling refurbished products is still an un-addressed issue. Though refurbished, the perceived value of a product is based on the name of the original equipment manufacturer. Dell, HP, Samsung as brand names carry more resale value than the name of the refurbisher. Who wants a laptop from Joe’s Computer Repair? But the name brand manufacturers do not want the on-going repair and warranty obligations—nor the support calls, for a product others have refurbished.
While Original Equipment Manufacturers are required (both through self-regulation and governmental requirements) to label products, at this point the Refurbishing industry has no such mandate. Most of the original labeling is relevant. GS 1 codes such as UPC codes and various AI codes are still accurate. MSDS, FCC or FDA safety information, WEEE, RoHS labels—still relevant, as are Prop 65 notifications.

What’s missing? Food products are now required to publish ingredients. We can expect that refurbished products will be required to label products indicating what was repaired and other relevant information. We can also expect that as the percentage of refurbished products continues to grow in the market, Original Equipment Manufacturers will mandate new labels for warranty and repair support be implemented. The cost of the end-user support call is obnoxious now. Among other things, 12N labels provide consumers with valuable information, like direct access to troubleshooting steps, that help reduce support calls.

The need for standards
Every industry benefit from standards. ISO and ANSI were created to manage processes for standardization. Forms began to be standardized in the 1960’s with Generalized Markup Language. When the Internet emerged, XML was developed (1997) as a standardized mark-up language. In 2009, the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) adopted XBRL as the language for financial reporting.

Labels are merely small, condensed forms. Labels must be readable in local languages but for automation efficiencies, need to be in machine readable formats as well. Numerous symbologies have been standardized as vehicles for communicating label content in machine readable form. Optically scan-able labels are among the most useful since all modern smart phones are capable of interpreting the encoded data into local language through machine readable images. Furthermore, such images do not necessitate wireless connectivity or special hardware to decode.

The limitation of labeling technology is the limited real estate that is available. The average soda can in America has about 30” square—the bulk of which is dedicated to branding. In fact, only about 9” square is used for labeling. Most of the label content is mandated by compliance regulations. Computers may have multiple labels; as many as seven labels is common.

The ANSI 12N Standard, developed by the RLA, gives refurbishers a labeling standard that allows them to provide information to improve their operations, better support their customers. It is flexible enough to support anticipated labeling requirements.

But for the lack of one standard, analogous to XML for optically scannable labels, label consolidation can be a reality. The ANSI 12N Standard, developed by the RLA, gives refurbishers a labeling standard that allows them to provide information to improve their operations, better support their customers. It is flexible enough to support anticipated labeling requirements. The Reverse Logistics Association is seeking pilot projects to implement our protocols.

In the 1970’s the insurance industry began standardizing its forms. Immediately they began savings of billions of dollars with reduced training costs and consistent language between carriers. The efficiencies enabled by GS 1 with standardized UPC codes is immeasurable.

Smart QR Labels (12N Codes)
The Reverse Logistics Association Standards Committee developed and now manages ANSI Standard MH10.8.2.12N which is a protocol that standardizes label content. It does this by providing a data dictionary of Field Identifiers (FI’s) or field names, and a standardized protocol for creating and parsing multiple fields in the same label. Because label space is limited, 12N Field Identifiers contain four digits—the first being a category of label titles, that allow the condensing of label titles. The dictionary is scalable for limitless field names. Labels created with the 12N protocols can contain multiple URL addresses, multiple phone number or multiple encoded data points. Each field can be encrypted or public and in multiple languages. In fact the database of field identifiers has already been translated into Chinese.



The 12N protocols enable companies to optimize their content onto a single label: One Label Does It All.

The best part: all of the labels now on a product can be consolidated into one label. A standard two-inch QR label con contain up to 4000 characters. The 12N protocols enable companies to optimize their content onto a single label: One Label Does It All.

12N codes do not compete with any existing labeling or content standards. For example, UPC codes are of fixed field length. Their content is arbitraged by GS 1, an International organization based in Brussels and active in over 100 countries. Their Application Identifiers (AI codes) contain fixed field length data that is usually presented as a bar code. Using the 12N protocols, the UPC is designated as G029. When scanned, the menu displays the Tag “UPC Code” though it also can display “warranty information, “product documentation” “connect to support for chat,” and many other subjects. On food labels, it can offer ingredients, allergens and product recall information.

12N Codes are perfect for the Refurbishing industry. They are easy to attach and users are becoming quite familiar with the ubiquitous square of information. As 12N codes proliferate, people will recognize that this is the source they need for product information.

The 12N protocols enable companies to optimize their content onto a single label: One Label Does It Al Your label could contain new links for users to get product support (without bothering the Original Equipment Manufacturer). It could contain new warranty information, as well as links for product recalls (heaven forbid) and recycling information.

Your label could contain new links for users to get product support (without bothering the Original Equipment Manufacturer). It could contain new warranty information, as well as links for product recalls (heaven forbid) and recycling information. You can add your own product ID numbers and date information. It can also contain information about what repairs were done (if any) to repair the device. All of this is useful information. It can be done with a single label.



The reader for the 12N labels can be downloaded free from the Apple Appstore and Google Play. Customers who do not have a reader that can parse the multi-field codes can still read the data, but will also be instructed how to get the free 12N reader.

Download the app now if you would like to play around with it. Here is a “digital to tag” recording computer repairs using 12N codes. It was produced by Eurosoft’s PC Diagnostic software—PC Builder™ and looks like this when scanned with a smart phone using the 12N application:

The RLA Standards Committee manages the 12N codes. They were adopted by ANSI as MH10.8.2.12N It is an open standard with no licensing fee. Information about this standard can be found on the RLA website at www.rla.org/sqrl



The RLA Standards Committee meets monthly on the second Tuesday of each month. You can join our committee on the Committee’s tab at the RLA site or at https://rla.org/committee/7

InforMission Solutions, LLC provides system tools and system integration services to corporations who are interested in implementing 12N labels. www.informission.com

The RLA Standards Committee manages the 12N codes. They were adopted by ANSI as MH10.8.2.12N It is an open standard with no licensing fee. Information about this standard can be found on the RLA website at www.rla.org
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