This article is a collection of mobile RFID applications in apparel supply chain. The descriptions are short and the purpose is to provide overview and ideas for RFID system development.
Supply chain and its' practices are defined during planning.
Strategic decisions that have an effect on potential RFID
applications are for example decisions of outsourcing and factory
locations. Product decisions - models, prices, quantities, timing
are the starting point of the logistics chain. Logistics and supply
chain management are tools for implementing the business decisions,
and mobile RFID is a tool for supply chain.
In apparel industry manufacturing is often located to a country
far from the main sales areas. Sourcing strategies vary, which has
also effect on the hardware decisions and processes. In some cases
factories are owned by apparel brand owner, in some cases there is
long term cooperation and in some cases factories compete for each
model and contracts are short term.
In some manufacturing processes mobile RFID is used during and
before the manufacturing for example in goods in application. In
coming materials are identified and inputted to system using case
or pallet level RFID. Tracking material flow and material use
during manufacturing is one possibility. Information of any item
that has passed a critical step in manufacturing process can be
recorded and time stamped. Real time information gives the brand
owner a possibility to follow status of the manufacturing, and
accurate records can be used in future planning. Real time and
accurate data reduces shrinkage and replaces onsite audits.
RFID tags can be also used for protecting against counterfeit
products. Manufacturer can create a record of individual ID's of
genuine items and the information can be utilized in further steps
of the chain, as well as in consumer services.
During planning it is in many cases impossible or uneconomical
to plan material use exactly. Typically use of bulk materials can
be estimated with +/- 10% accuracy. Inaccuracy results partly from
inaccuracy of the planning, partly it comes from inability to
estimate material errors and manufacturing mistakes in advance.
Some materials can be and are purchased exactly - expensive buttons
for example, and especially brand labels. As a result of
inaccuracies the brand owner can receive the amount of ordered
goods +/- 10%. Additional amount is in some cases sold with
lower price at outlets, lower quantities can at worst case risk
relations to retail stores. Accurate information of manufactured
goods and shipping contents is important. Mobile RFID is an
excellent tool for achieving accurate shipment information. Mobile
RFID can be used in picking applications, and picking is followed
by packing. During packing each item is identified - not as EAN
level, but also including size, color etc. information. Mobile RFID
helps in creating electronic packing lists. Brand owner receives
information of exact content of the package at the time of packing.
Entire transportation time is available for reacting and informing
In some of the manufacturing applications fixed readers can be
used instead of mobile readers - in some applications fixed reader
may even be technically more feasible solution. Mobile readers are
however used especially if brand owner favors short term
manufacturing contracts. Brand owner can have device pool with
applications and connections to their system established. When a
new contract is started, the brand owner sends devices to new
factory - mobile RFID readers are easy to move. Nordic ID Merlin
UHF RFID and Nordic ID Merlin Cross Dipole UHF RFID are the
products for manufacturing. They also include other functionalities
that are often required in manufacturing: Bluetooth for printers,
2D code reader for reading EPC code in 2D format, WLAN and WWAN for
wireless data connections and USB and Ethernet for wired data
Tracking is a basic application during transportation. In
different steps of transportation the packages or pallets are
identified and information of the step, goods and time stamp are
provided. Reading is usually done whenever the package is loaded to
or unloaded from a vehicle, ship etc. or moved to or from a
warehouse. At the start of the transportation creating a record of
ongoing goods, or goods loaded to the truck produces an electronic
proof of shipment. RFID data also helps in creating accurate
During transportation RFID also helps in customs operations. EPC
code includes information of country of origin. Customs officials
can verify and record the country of origin information without
opening the packages.
Some mobile RFID applications related to transportation are for
deviation situation. A misplaced package can be moved to correct
place and a package with damaged packing label can be identified
from contents without opening the package with the help of Nordic
ID's mobile RFID reader. Mobile RFID can be also used for searching
a package or a product.
Nordic ID Merlin Cross Dipole UHF RFID is the favorite product
for transportation operations.
Goods in, goods out and other tracking applications can utilize
mobile RFID also at distribution centers. In some cases
distribution centers combine shipments. Products from various
factories are combined into a package that is then transported to
the store. Using mobile RFID with picking, tracking and packing
applications improves delivery accuracy, improve inventory accuracy
and speeds up the operations. Accurate information and tracking
information reduces shrinkage.
Ideal product for distribution center operations is Nordic ID
Merlin Cross Dipole UHF RFID. DeliveryIn many ways final
delivery resembles transportation. Tracking is a common application
for mobile RFID. Tracking information is used for shrinkage
reduction and for protection against counterfeit products. Using
RFID also produces an electronic proof of delivery.
Nordic ID Morphic is and excellent product for delivery
operations. The product is easy to carry. The same product can be
used as a phone, getting signature of recipient and as an overall
communication tool between delivery truck driver and home base.
Store operations start with goods in and are followed by other
inventory management applications. With goods in
identification also other actions are made. The products are signed
in to EAS database and their genuinity is verified.
Tracking information is part of many store operations efficiency
and quality measurement. Mobile RFID speeds up inventory counts and
improves inventory accuracy. This improves backroom to store
replenishment efficiency and makes store to store transfers easier.
As a special case of replenishment is arrival of a new
product type, with a new product it is often useful to provide
guidelines for store personnel on how to display the products. Key
for opening the instructions is certain RFID code and user
interface is a mobile device. With mobile RFID readers items can be
counted store wide with the speed of tens of items per second. And
inventory is not limited to product type information - items are
recognized as individuals. At the same time mobile RFID can be used
for creating warnings about items in wrong location. Ensuring that
all the goods are at correct places improves sales and increases
efficiency of shelf space use. Because inventory counts consume
very little time inventories can be taken frequently. Improved
inventory accuracy reduces out-of-stock situations, gives
possibility to react quickly for unexpected sales or lack of sales
and provides feedback for planning.
Mobile RFID also enables new kind of customer services. It is
possible to easily track goods taken to fitting room, provide
information of products and find complementing or alternative
products. With mobile RFID reader it is also quick to scan through
the selves for finding a certain sizes, colors etc. products.
Mobile devices can be also used for collecting customer feedback of
the products and overall service. When fitting room data and
customer feedback is combined with sales data the created
information is valuable feedback for creative department.
Shrinkage reduction is a common part of RFID systems. At the
point of sale mobile reader is one alternative for removing
purchased items from EAS database. When an alert sounds the
security guard scans purchased items for finding the tag that
caused the alert. With mobile RFID reader the operation can be done
with minimal disturbance - without opening bags. Picture of the
item on the device display is an additional help. Instead of being
forced for rumbling through the bag the security giard can ask:
"did you purchase this product - I am sorry but it seems that
security tag is still active". Mobile RFID improves customer
service. When goods are returned the handheld can be used again at
the service desk for unlocking the tag and returning it to the EAS
database. At the service desk RFID tag can be also used for
validating warranty claims. Items in modifying service can be
tracked with RFID without risk of mixing items. Same type of
application can be used in tracking repairs. RFID applications
One new type of customer service is a possibility to provide
customers information of genuine goods. Brand owner can establish a
service from which a customer can validate genuinity, and in some
case also place and time of purchase. Service can be provided for
example at the retail store service desks.
Nordic ID Morphic is the ideal product for customer service, pos,
service desk etc applications. The device is light weight, easy to
carry and has other useful functionality such as voice and barcode.
Nordic ID Merlin versions are ideal for inventory
Wide use of RFID enables new kind of measurement and management
applications that are not necessarily specific to one step of the
supply chain. All tracking applications provide efficiency
information and serve as a benchmark tool. It is possible to
compare factories, transportation routes, distribution centers,
delivery trucks, stores etc in details. The information can be used
for directing development resources into correct spots. Typical
benefits include efficient operations, efficient use of capital,
reduced shrinkage and faster desk-to-consumer process. RFID is a
major tool for fighting counterfeit products. When genuine product
database is established the company can start to search for brand
goods and is able to ensure that the goods are genuine. In some
cases it is also interesting to track sales route of the goods.
This can be used for eliminating unauthorized channel.
Nordic ID has a product range that covers all apparel supply
chain applications. The products are software compatible. When an
application is created to one of the models, the result is three
for the price of one. With one development work customer is able to
choose a product that fits best at their individual applications