Tackling the issue of garment security isof prime concern to both garment manufacturers and the suppliers of labelling solutions.

One of the central issues facing clothingmanufacturers when meeting the increasingly short lead times imposed by high streetretailers is how to ensure that all packaging meets the necessary requirements.

As many retailers, particularly in theclothing and fashion industries, are stepping up the fight against theft as a means ofincreasing profits by preventing losses, security is becoming more important. This meansthat more and more retailers are considering security labelling to be essential. Howeverthis no longer has to start with the retailer. New, more sophisticated techniques areavailable which mean that electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags are virtuallyimpossible for would-be thieves to spot and do not have to be applied by retailers.

One new technique is source tagging,whereby radio frequency EAS tags are integrated with existing labelling at the point ofmanufacture. This means that goods compatible with different EAS security systems areready tagged before delivery to retailers.

A pioneer of source tagging is the RetailTagging Organisation (RTO) in Nottingham, which operates in partnership with labellingcompany Kingsway Printers, Cleethorpes and US label manufacturer CCL Label, to provideretailers and manufacturers with this new approach to cost-effective product securitywhich has special relevance to the clothing industry.

Kingsway Printers uses an off-lineconversion machine supplied by CCL to remove the current label from its release liner andapply the radio frequency tag supplied by RTO to the sticky side before replacing thelabel on the liner. The discreet tag then remains attached to the decorative label when itis applied to the product but cannot be seen.

Tags can also be applied to clothing swingtickets and, while not all security tag technology lends itself to being placed insidecertain garments at the point of manufacture, RTO is able to achieve this.

Radio frequency signals issued by the tagsare picked up by in-store antenna that sound an alarm if an item is removed from the shopwithout the device being de-activated at the checkout. 'Hidden' tags make it harder forwould-be store thieves to identify vulnerable goods and mean that starting a sourcetagging programme does not require a change in labelling or brand recognition.

But RTO, which also supplies verificationunits for hunting live tags, deactivation units and detection equipment, stresses thatsource tagging is not a technological panacea. It must be integrated into acarefully-managed programme to combat theft. The company currently advises retailers, suchas leading women's fashion outlet New Look, on implementing source tagging programmes.

Managing director, Ronnie O'Callaghan says:"More and more retailers in the clothing sector appreciate the benefits and costefficiency of source tagging and it is an issue with which clothing manufacturers need tobe familiar. It is very likely to effect garment manufacturers sooner rather than later asthe industry comes to appreciate that it is easier to tag products at manufacture ratherthan after delivery.

"This is also because, as well asoffering payback within a year if it is properly managed, less training is required byretailers to support tag technology. This leaves more time to train staff in dealing withcases when alarms are triggered.

"It is highly likely that with somehigh value products it will be necessary for source tagging security to be implemented.Because of this, clothing manufacturers which address security tagging at source may findgreater favour further down the supply chain".

Successful Deterrents

One of the single most important issues toface retailers during the last decade is that of protecting fashion and sportswear fromtheft. And Barbour department stores in Scotland believe that CombiClip ink tags have beena successful and inexpensive deterrent.

With stores in Dumfries and Stranraer,Barbour offers a range of branded sportswear and young men's fashions. Using CombiClipwith the CombiSafe as a stand-alone protection system, Colin Barbour has found that thedual ink tag has provided a valuable deterrent to theft.

"We have used CombiClip products forthree years now", says Colin, "and have found them easy to use for staff, buteffective against shoplifters. They are visible without being intrusive and in my opinionoffer a realistic return on investment.

"The CombiSafe and CombiClipcombination provides a very good measure against theft, which I believe actually dissuadessome thieves from entering our store", he concludes.

Security Labels

A new type of security label - Nortag - hasbeen developed by Norprint Labelling Systems Ltd and its partner Sensormatic.

The new product is a swing ticketincorporating hidden acoustic-magnetic (AM) technology. AM tags are said to have thehighest detection rate in the industry with 100 per cent reliable deactivation, and theability to be deactivated and reactivated repeatedly.

The system now makes itself available to awider range of applications for goods which, up to now, existing methods of securitytagging have been inappropriate or impossible. For example, items which may have beenlocked away in display cabinets can now be displayed prominently.

The versatility of AM tags means that theycan also be used inside product packs at the manufacturing source or even integratedwithin the product itself, as well as attached to garments in the traditional manner.

Using Nortag, the company explains thatretailers can combine the benefits of AM security labelling with the added versatility ofhaving the devices incorporated and protected inside a swing ticket. The fact that theycan be de-activated and re-activated continually gives users the added benefits ofrecycleability and cost effectiveness.

As the tag can be made in a choice ofmaterials, and may be printed in full colour with any design, the need for dual tagging isoften unnecessary. Attachments available include string, plastic, nylon or elasticdepending on the application.

Norprint has also developed a thermaltransfer overprinter to add variable data to the reverse of the tag. This means that thecompany can now offer a three in one solution - branding, security and variable data.

"Nortag technology combines covertsecurity tagging with product enhancement", says Peter Dowse, special productsmanager at Norprint Labelling Systems. "We believe the aesthetics of the tag can addvalue to major brands currently seen in the high street".

Direct Garment Labelling Materials

A new, extended range of 'Polytex' directgarment labelling materials has been unveiled by Ritrama. Used by many of the UK's highstreet stores, including Marks & Spencer, Polytex materials combine reliable adhesionto garment fabrics - withstanding handling, packing and transportation - with easy removalwhen required, without damaging the fabric or leaving adhesive deposits.

Developed in conjunction with the BritishTextile Technology Group (BTTG), formerly The Shirley Institute, as a project instigatedby Marks & Spencer, Polytex demonstrates good adhesion to a variety of fabrics andwill not discolour or otherwise damage garments.

Manufactured from flexible substrates forsoft-contoured surfaces, Polytex stays firmly in position even around fabric folds,following repeated folding and unfolding, thereby maintaining its excellent 'on shelf'appearance. These substrates are compatible with thermal transfer and hot foiloverprinting and are especially suited to variable information printing such as barcodes.

Each batch of Polytex material manufacturedby Ritrama undergoes a rigorous, seven day batch sample testing programme, which employsaccelerated ageing techniques to fully assess the integrity of the sample. This testprogramme was developed from the original Shirley Institute testing procedure on whichPolytex's credentials were founded.

To supplement customers' own suitabilitytesting procedures, Ritrama will individually test potentially difficult fabrics forcustomers prior to their adoption of Polytex laminate for a specific garment label,providing a further safeguard for the customer that their garments are compatible withPolytex-type labels.

In addition to the original Polytexproduct, Ritrama also offers a range of special face materials, including cast-coatedboard, brown kraft paper and satin acetate. Special adhesives are also provided for usewith delicate fabrics and garments that have less receptive fabric surfaces.

Cost Reduction and Quality

Runcorn-based Paxar is on something of amission - to reduce the cost of producing labels while offering its clothing manufacturingand retailing customers the best possible quality.

This is certainly the thinking behind thetwo latest electronic printers to be introduced. The Paxar 676 - the most recent additionto the Paxar 6x6 line-up - makes possible the printing of fabric labels, swing tickets andadhesive labels in up to three colours and on both sides of the label, without the needfor printing plates. The new budget priced Paxar 9830CL printer's claim to fame is that itcuts the cost of producing care labels. It has been teamed up with a new dip-coated nylonfabric and a new inexpensive thermal transfer ink.

According to the company, the Paxar 676ensures that labels are produced promptly, on time and error free. It delivers topquality, highly durable care and logo labels that are described as being virtuallyindistinguishable from those produced using traditional labour-intensive methods.

The claim is that this makes the 676effectively an in-house Desktop Service Bureau, satisfying even the most demanding labelprinting needs via a PC. And today's telecommunications technology makes is possible for aPaxar 676 printer to be located in a factory anywhere in the world, yet be driven by a PCat a head office thousands of miles away. This allows labels to be produced locally thatprecisely match the garment manufacturer's production schedule.

The Paxar 676 can produce labels on coatedand uncoated fabrics, including woven-edge tape, ticket stock, die cast adhesive labelsand heat seal material, all of which the company supplies. They can range from as small as16mm by 32mm - suitable for the most intimate apparel and size tags - up to 38mm by 89mmwith Paxar's recently introduced Microstacker. Using the standard stacker, this maximumlabel size is increased to 130mm by 178mm.

The new Paxar 9830CL package is beingtargeted at medium sized clothing manufacturers seeking low cost in-plant apparellabelling. It is being promoted as a one-stop solution with the care tape, ink, ribbons,label and printer all being supplied by Paxar. The company says that the 9830CL is arobust and reliable low-cost-of-ownership solution with the emphasis on simplicity andflexibility, where labels can be printed "as required".

The 9830CL calls for the minimum ofoperator training; and set-up of the user-friendly software is also undemanding. Extralong care tape reels last longer and a new design of ribbon mechanism ensures that the9380CL is not plagued by ribbon wrinkle.

Back to Basics Package

"A label printing package with adifference" is how KTP describes its new 'Media Professional' 32 bit, NT basedsoftware. Although it isn't feature rich like many of the label design packages on offertoday (including KTP's own Label IQ software), Media Professional has been designed tofill a gap in the marketplace. It is flexible, affordable and purposely includes only thevery key features that are needed by the majority of organisations today.

Harry Clark, KTP's managing director says:"Media Professional is the culmination of 21 years of exposure to customers'labelling needs. KTP offers bespoke software services as an element of its businesssolutions brand. Time and time again we are experiencing similar requests. It made senseto combine these requests and produce one powerful and flexible labelling package - MediaProfessional - leaving out many of the advanced, little-used features found in manypackages on the market these days".

Basically, with Media Professional you canstore, manipulate and print labels in a variety of ways across a wide area network, localarea network, or stand alone if required. It has sound options, basic label designcapability and EDI options.

An example of the capabilities of MediaProfessional is one recent implementation across an NT LAN, dealing with the design andprint queue management for over 70 thermal transfer printers, each capable of printingtotally different content on each label produced.

"Our supply chain customers tell usthat EDI labelling and ticketing linked with the order processing operation is anefficient way to achieve accurate and consistent presentation of information on products -barcodes, price details, product descriptions, size and style. Media Professionalsolutions reduce the need for suppliers to become barcode experts by automating manyaspects of barcode construction. In addition, the EDI integration features are proven andnow part of Media Professional", explains Harry.

Bucking Industry Trends

Advanced technology printer Avenue DataSystems (ADS) is moving to larger premises this summer to accommodate ongoing expansionand the continued development of its overseas bureau network.

The new 40,000 sq ft facility is near tothe company's existing base at Sutton Fields, Hull, and is central to future plans -including the globalisation of its sophisticated printing service for the production ofswing tickets and labels.

Avenue Data Systems launched the mostrecent extension to its overseas bureau network in Hong Kong at the end of last year andplans to launch another in Turkey this spring. The first bureau opened in Mauritius twoyears ago and a second facility in Cyprus became operational during mid-1998.

The extension of the ticket bureau serviceto include strategic overseas locations enables manufacturers and retailers sourcinggarments abroad to access labels or swing tickets near to where the garments are beingmanufactured, which streamlines the supply chain and reduces both costs and lead times.

Historically, retailers have imposedpenalties on manufacturers who deliver late, and hence delays in receiving and attachingtickets and labels can be extremely costly. George Clothing, which supplies some 200 Asdastores, worked closely with ADS to develop a fast-track, on-demand service - which is nowbeing adopted by several other major retailers and manufacturers.

Avenue Data Systems managing director SimonWinstanley says: "Our expansion into new premises, at a time when many companies areconsolidating, is very exciting. Growth is being carefully controlled and we expect salesto double over the next five years".

The overseas bureaux use a sophisticatedsoftware programme called Adnet which eliminates the need for the manual re-keying ofdata. This reduces lead times and minimises the scope for errors.

Adnet incorporates a full audit trail -enabling staff at the Hull headquarters to monitor the progress of jobs 'on screen'. Thesoftware also ensures that data is in a format ready to output to film, for labels, andlaser plates for swing tickets - which are then printed to meet a four day lead time, orsooner in urgent cases.