RFID Arena

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One, two, three, four, six, five, six... five… damn.

A customer in need. The retailer must have count on all the items in the back room and especially on the shop floor. Having knowledge about the exact locations of your items on the shop floor is the key in making the next sale.

I have come to understand that the journey of a garment is only counting, counting and counting. First, when leaving the point of manufacture someone has to pack the garments into boxes and count that all required items go inside the box. Then, the truck driver counts the boxes entering the truck. The next one counting is the lady at the delivery center opening the boxes, picking the items and repacking them into boxes based on the orders of the retailer. When the delivery arrives to the retail shop, the sales assistants only need to unpack the garments and count them. They count the items going to the shop floor and the items remaining in the back room. In addition to all this mentioned above, the logistics chain may include more delivery centers and transporting, which lengthens the garment journey and causes more counting, counting and counting. How many times has the item been counted during its journey? Really, in the retail supply chain, all you do is count!

Have you ever thought about how much time the personnel in apparel (or in any other) retail stores spend time counting the items? Ordered items, arrived items, items on the shop floor and in the backroom, bought items, lost items. The list never ends! I bet the sales assistants have something else to do than counting items. They really should concentrate on selling: helping us, the customers, who are desperately trying to figure out what colored shirt matches the must-have skirt in the window. And despite of all the counting, usually when asking for my size of a piece of garment, it takes a long time for the sales assistants to look for it or they end up telling me they haven't found it, even though it should be "here somewhere". This is usually the result of a human mistake in inventories: if you have to count 15 size M shirts and 20 size L shirts, the process does not necessarily lead to correct stock values if, for example, the items are misplaced or if there are two types of shirts in the same pile, all size M and L. Taking inventory is not as easy as it sounds. Another factor leading to inaccurate stock values are the deliveries arriving in a hurry. There is no space for the arrived items neither in the back room nor on the shop floor. What does a sales assistant do in this kind of a situation? She (or he) quickly pushes the roll cages into the back room to avoid being corrected by her supervisor or unpacks the delivery fast in the back room and stuffs the items into any tiny free space she can possibly find.

Last week I went to a store that sells apparel and shoes. I asked whether new collections of my favorite brand had arrived yet. The sales assistant answered that the new collections had arrived but they were still in the back room and would be on the shop floor in a few days. In a few days? I really needed a pair of shoes on that day. Finally, I went to another shop, found a nice pair of loafers and purchased them for a fairly higher price than the ones of my favorite brand would have cost.

The shoe shopping experience really made me wonder what kind of a system the first store I entered had, and really made me see the possibilities they would gain with RFID. When human mistakes are removed in the counting process, the arriving delivery is accurate. Or if it isn't, it can be checked with a handheld RFID reader in a fraction of the time that a manual count would take. The whole supply chain could be speeded up and this would result in more transparency. With transparency, the retail shops would be updated about the estimated arrival and content of their deliveries. Therefore, the space for the new items, both in the back room and on the s floor, could be organized beforehand and the new items would be accessible to the customers the same day they arrive to the shop. This is truly something every customer would value. And not to mention the easiness in taking inventories.

Nordic ID Morphic UHF RFID Cross Dipole on the shop floor

However, the next one counting the items is me, the consumer, trying to convince myself that I do NOT own too many t-shirts…

3 comments on “One, two, three, four, six, five, six... five… damn.”

  1. Gravatar of Jessica SäiläJessica Säilä
    Posted 20 March 2012 at 09:36:05

    I never thought how simple it really is... All you do for an item is count.

  2. Gravatar of Hanna ÖstmanHanna Östman
    Posted 22 March 2012 at 12:41:19

    And we all know how boring math is! :P

  3. Posted 27 March 2012 at 19:03:43

    Nice job boiling the process down. I think that keeping things simple is the best way to come up with great ideas on how to improve a process or workflow. Thanks for the article!

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