Ever so slowly, RFID is gaining traction in distribution, with new announcements coming every couple of months and sometimes more often.
One trend is clear: the apparel industry is taking the lead, and there is more action happening in Europe than in the US.
The value proposition generally for use of RFID in the apparel/footwear supply chain is becoming increasingly clear, especially in-store. (See New University of Arkansas Study on Item-Level Apparel Tagging Interesting, but Cause-Effect Relationships Not Clear.) This makes sense because of the unique challenges of this sector, where a base SKU (say a pair of jeans) comes in a variety of sizes and colors (style-color-size). So, accurately understanding what inventory is where at a piece level can pay huge dividends, especially in terms of avoiding sales lost from being out of stock in the color or size the consumer wants.
If RFID works at the store, it’s only logical there may be additional benefits further upstream in distribution.
That’s, in fact, where European retailer Serge Blanco is starting, with plans to build store-level capabilities next.
To deal with growth, the company was considering expanding its DC footprint, but decided instead to try to achieve additional throughput using RFID-based automation at its Toulouse, France logistics hub.
Suppliers must now tag products at the item level. When they are received into the DC, the cartons are sent via conveyor through an “UHF RFID Tunnel," supplied as part of the total system by TAGSYS. In the tunnel, each item in the carton is read at high speed. Serge Blanco says it is achieving read rates of 99.99%, and can process approximately 18,000 items per hour through the tunnel.
The warehouse system compares read data with what was expected on the PO, notifies personnel of exceptions, and sends highly accurate receipt information to inventory and merchandising systems.
(RFID and Automatic Identification Article - Continued Below)