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A more secure future

One way to reduce retail theft is to use Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS), which utilises paper-thin labels that must be deactivated at the point of purchase or an alarm will sound. Such a system can reduce retail theft by up to 86% in some instances.

That old adage is as true in the security industry as it is in the medical field. Taking steps to prevent crime could improve your bottom line and can drastically reduce shrinkage.

"Our experience indicates that retailers can reduce shrinkage significantly - up to 86% in some instances, simply by managing the issue of security better," says Neil O'Reilly, MD of Advanced Technologies.

Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) labels are almost undetectable and are ideal for smaller items such as cosmetics, over the counter medicines, fragrances, etc.

Currently about 17% of South African manufacturers use the EAS system.

EAS offers three options for manufacturers: the security tags can be embedded in the packaging; placed underneath or on the back of the pack; or stuck onto the product itself, inside the packaging.

The security labels can be applied automatically or manually, during the manufacturing process. In this way, security becomes part of the total package.

The manufacturer can also vary where the tags are placed to ensure tampering is impossible. Because the labels are so small, they are often difficult to detect and many times will be confused with the price tag.

The way of the future is undoubtedly Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID), but it requires that manufacturers and retailers work closely together. An intelligent chip is build into the security tag and is applied to packaging either by the manufacturer or by the distributor. (Smart distributors will begin offering this as an added value service.)

When a crate or box of cosmetics arrives at the receiving bay or goods entrance of the pharmacy, the RF antennae scans the box and counts the items inside without the box having to be unpacked. This will make off-loading far easier and less labour intensive. And when supermarkets install RFID, the days of queuing will be over. We'll be able to push an entire trolley load of goods through without having to scan each barcode individually.

Unfortunately the restricting factor of RFID is the prohibitive cost, however as with all technology, the production costs are decreasing and it will eventually become affordable and ultimately the standard in security.

Another problem, and this is a worldwide one, is that no RFID frequency standard has been set. So the potential for a free-for-all is high. O'Reilly advises that those retailers who get in first will be able to set the standard and others will have to follow, because a manufacturer will be inhibited from supplying different frequencies for the same product.

"Another advantage of the RFID system is that it can be rolled out store by store, product line by product line, and thus can save manufacturers excessive initial costs," explains O'Reilly.

Source tagging, offered by EAS, is a pre-requisite for RFID, and manufacturers who use EAS on their packaging will be one step ahead when RFID becomes accessible.

"The initial investment for EAS is less expensive," says O'Reilly, "but the return on investment of RFID is far more substantial not withstanding the high cost of investment."



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