Mid-South Business Makes its Mark

By MICHAEL WADDELL

Mid-South Marking Systems, a one-stop shop for any business that needs to distribute and track products, continues an impressive growth trajectory.

The company provides bar code and RFID (radio frequency identification) solutions for local and national clients in industries including manufacturing, retail, health care, pharmaceutical, government and distribution.

The company has experienced strong growth for more than a decade and has also expanded internationally over the past few years, working with several large apparel manufacturers. The company now approaches $20 million in annual revenues.

“We’ve had steady double-digit growth in our core business for the majority of the past 16 years,” said Eric Timmons, Mid-South Marking Systems sales manager. “And now we are seeing explosive growth in the clothing manufacturing industry because retail stores are mandating that RFID tags be included.”

Many retail products now must include both bar code and RFID tags. The bar code is used at the point of sale, and the RFID tag is used for inventory control.

“By using an RFID reader in close proximity to product on the sales floor, store personnel can immediately know an inventory count and determine what needs to be pulled out of the back or reordered,” Timmons said. “It’s a real value for businesses.”

Richard Phillips inspects RFID labels for quality assurance at Mid-South Marking Systems, which provides bar code and RFID (radio frequency identification) solutions for local and national clients.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Timmons emphasized that the RFID system not only helps businesses pinpoint on-hand inventory, it also creates a better experience for shoppers because there is more likelihood of desired colors or sizes being available.

Rick Summers founded Mid-South Marking Systems in 1981 along with two business partners, and the company initially was involved with paper-label display price marking that was common in every retail store across the country. By the late 1980s, bar code technology caught fire, and the company was faced with a decision.

“By the latter part of 1987, the volume had dropped so much with price marking that we had to make a decision to either shut down the business or change directions,” Summers said. “So I took the company in 1988 and de-emphasized individual price marking and turned towards automation, data collection and bar coding.”

The company still does some price marking, but it is a very small percentage of its business. A few areas of the country still require individual price stickers on all retail products sold.

Bar code technology became commonplace during the 1990s.

“When you are typing numbers, the error rate is close to 1 in 300 keystrokes. With bar codes the error rate is 1 to many trillions depending on the symbology, so the core of that technology has really remained the same since the beginning,” Timmons said.

Mobile computers have become much more predominant during the past several years, and now RFID technology is establishing a foothold in many industries. RFID is essentially a wireless technology that operates on proximity instead of direct sight involved with bar coding. It is currently used primarily for asset tracking and inventory management, and future applications are likely to include point-of-sale transactions.

Summers said he feels RFID is now at a stage of development that bar coding was at in the mid- to late-1980s.

“For a company having trouble tracking its product inside its own plant, they can use RFID tags along with readers on portals inside and out of the buildings to know where their product is without too great of an expense,” Timmons said.

In the medical industry, Mid-South Marking Systems works with many hospital systems in the Mid-South as well as the Southeast U.S., providing printers, patient ID bands, and pharmacy and lab labels.

“Having bar codes for both patients and drugs can really cut down on mistakes that are made, and it’s more efficient in tracking which drugs are being used,” said Timmons, who explained that hospitals can even track where certain assets like wheelchairs are at any given time on the property.

The company now employs a staff of 20 people, including Summers’ sons Blake and David.

The company is a premier distributor of Zebra Technologies, a manufacturer of thermal bar code label and receipt printers, RFID smart label printer/encoders, card and kiosk printers.