Comment: From instore to the DC – RFID is on the up

At RFID Journal Live Europe 2017, River Island took to the stage and announced they’d completed a total RFID roll out to 281 stores. For a retailer who only began their RFID journey three years ago, this is an impressive result.

Hyped as a retail game changer from the mid-2000s, the cost and poor results of early trials discouraged many retailers from adopting RFID. But with the cost of tags down 75% in the last five years and companies like Jack Wills and M&S openly discussing their RFID success, retailers agree the technology really works.

Having reaped the benefits of RFID in store, the early adopters including Marks and Spencer, C&A and River Island are looking to broaden their use of this transformational technology,

Jon Wright, head of loss prevention at River Island, told GS1 UK: “EPC RFID at River Island has really been a significant step forward for the business both in generating sales but also helping to lay the foundation for future Omni Channel opportunities. RFID has improved stock accuracy to above 97% which in turn has provided positive sales impact, this is now leading us to further expand our use of EPC RFID within the business.”

Speaking at RFID Journal Live Europe 2017, River Island’s senior safety and loss analyst, Anna Szelag, revealed that due to its success within their stores, planning is now underway to use the technology in the distribution centre for inbound and outbound processes.

The value in using RFID upstream was echoed on a retail panel session, also at the RFID Journal’s conference, by Richard Jenkins from Marks and Spencer who confirmed the supply chain is “the obvious next place to go”.

So, what are the benefits of using RFID in the distribution centre?

Saving time in the distribution centre – benefits of RFID

Many retail warehouses are now highly automated. However, this hasn’t completely removed the existence of manual processes.

Picking stock, cycle counting and checks are key examples where considerable human resource is still required. The manual nature of these tasks makes them both time consuming and prone to error – unless you’re using RFID.

An RFID reader can count over 20,000 tags an hour and does not need a line of sight to read a tag. This means an entire shipment can be counted and received into the warehouse by passing through RFID-enabled loading doors. According to research from Auburn University RFID Lab Studies this improves receiving time by 90%.

RFID improves accuracy in and out of your warehouse

Pickers in the warehouse are usually measured on accuracy as well as speed and this is where RFID can drive further value. RFID tag scanning is 99.9% accurate meaning it can be used to validate what you’ve received and what’s being despatched. 

Having a reliable validation process at both the warehouse and store enables retailers to identify stock lost in transit and potentially identify why its occurred. This has benefits for both the retailer and supplier.

US Outerwear manufacturer Herman Kay began using EPC RFID when trading with Macy’s. Rather than simply meeting Macy’s requirement, Herman Kay decided to use the technology to their own benefit through their warehouse operations.

Herman Kay’s goal is to be 100% error free when it comes to fulfilling customer orders and RFID enables them to do this. At each stage of the fulfilment process Herman Kay scan each garments EPC RFID tag to verify the accuracy of shipped orders saving them costs, labour and time associated with returns and chargebacks.

Speaking to GS1 US, Richard Haig, CTO and CIO of Herman Kay, confirms: “EPC RFID has given us a high level of confidence. When retailers receive our products, there’s no question about the accuracy of the delivery, because now we now have an electronic record of every single item’s EPC code on every hangtag that was on that truckload to them”.

Where’s next for RFID

RFID technology has come a long way since it was originally hyped as being on a par with the internet. Today, more and more retailers are beginning their journey with the technology while the pioneers continue to advance RFID applications upstream. Don’t let your business get left behind.

To learn more about RFID visit GS1 UK

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