RFID is stated to be worth an investment, although there is always room for improvement. Let’s see how C&A is handling the predominant trends in the RFID business and what they think about RFID.
In this article, we had a chance to interview an expert who is
specialized on RFID among retail industry. Joachim Wilkens, C&A
Group's Head of Functional IT, kindly shared his ideas about their
current RFID reading systems, and also discussed the systems he
would see coming in. C&A is a forerunner in retail RFID
implementation as it started running RFID in a large scale in 2012
in their German stores.
The status quo of retail RFID systems is to perform stock
operations with mobile computers as it is seen as the most
convenient way of doing it. The concept of overhead reading is
arriving on the shop floor, and it possesses new kinds of benefits
for the user. C&A is aware of this too.
C&A and RFID today
"Our current RFID system is quite simple. We don't use fixed
readers on a large scale - we have some installed in our stores at
the point of exit, but generally we make everything with mobile
readers. We have a software, which creates the stock data for our
location and replenishment system. The most remarkable asset of the
software is that it does not need to update the stock immediately.
It will observe if the items, which were missing in stock takes,
would appear in two consecutive stock takes. The stock take is
always a valid cycle count as the system gives a threshold of what
is expected to be found. Due to this procedure, we do not order
merchandises based on a single stock take. This allows us to have
our stocks up-to-date and to avoid both out-of-stocks and
overstocks, which are the greatest benefits of the whole system.
Other benefits that are worth mentioning include stock accuracy.
Our stock accuracy is high, which is good for our central location
and replenishment system. In stores, we utilize the sales floor and
stock room capabilities of our software, which enabled us to reduce
the bottlenecks dramatically," explains Wilkens.
taking RFID further at c&a
C&A seems to be quite happy with the current system. But as
all the innovations continuously develop, also RFID has taken steps
further and the new systems provide new solutions, for example
overhead readers. In the supply chain, the extension options are in
practice unlimited. Is there room for improvement at the
"Of course there is. We would like to collegially charge the
RFID system to external partners, for example logistics providers
and suppliers. We intend to establish a C&A EPC-assessed system
where we store all data and all read events in, and where we can
share these read events with our supply chain partners. This would
streamline our all supply chain operations," he continues.
About the scope of the RFID system, Wilkens states: "Since we
piloted the RFID in German C&A's, we are currently using RFID
only in Germany. But, we are starting to extend the RFID into
France this year. Other countries and more stores are also possible
for the future. Our crucial aim in the RFID is to find a way to
have the cycle counts done as to-date or to keep the stock accuracy
as to-date without harming the selling organization with additional
workload. To achieve this, we have to also think about overhead
RFID reading systems, which release the staff from inventory
operations. Our other aim for RFID is the implementation procedure
in logistics, where we can use RFID in the automated ASN (Advance
Shipping Notice) creation. This is currently done on a manual basis
by our suppliers. In the future we would also involve our
consolidation centers who create the ASN if the suppliers have not
done that yet."
area reading opens up new possibilities
Last, we asked some of Wilkens's thoughts about the area reading
/ overhead systems that have raised public interest in the past
year. "In addition to performing automated inventory, the overhead
readers could serve the store infrastructure also otherwise. If the
installation of an overhead reader would cover the problem of the
store not having a WLAN, it would cover much more than just the
plain inventory. This is the issue we are facing - our stores do
not have a wireless LAN and the overhead readers include one," he
Even marketing could benefit from this kind of a system, the
combination of WLAN and RFID readers. "The WLAN connection of the
reader combined to the UHF tags in the merchandises would help us
in planning in-store marketing. For example, together they could be
able to provide data for a stock app for smart phones. For the
customers this would provide direct benefits in addition to
conventional product information, like bonus points and answers to
their marketing questions, and even free coupons if we one day have
a C&A app. Even the staff could utilize this system - if they
carried smart devices with them, they could check if the visible
merchandising has been executed in the right way and observe the
bottleneck situation in certain areas. Furthermore, it would be
interesting if smart devices could also run the stock app itself
for actual stock operations," Wilkens explains.
"The overhead reading system is something that is for me
personally very interesting. The WLAN connection combined to an
RFID is something that I see very beneficial as it can solve
versatile business cases," Wilkens concludes.
Joachim Wilkens, C&A Group's
Head of Functional IT