Since the mid-2000s, RFID has rapidly increased in adoption among apparel retailers. Currently it is in use by over half of the apparel retailers in the United States, mainly in their stores to improve inventory accuracy.
Oddly, RFID adoption has occurred mostly at the ends of the retail supply chain. Meaning, product suppliers apply the tags during the manufacturing process, and retailers scan the RFID tagged items on the sales floor just before they are purchased by customers. There are many potential uses for RFID all along the path during shipping and processing at the distribution centers.
Most distribution centers today face inventory issues on the inbound and outbound cases and pallets for accuracy and completeness. In the modern world of product specialization, online sales channels, and consumer demand for variety, the pick/pack process has become more important than ever to fill quickly and accurately.
Gone are the days of the 1980's when consumers would hear the phrase "please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery." Now is the era of overnight or same-day shipping.
Unfortunately, the techniques for picking and packing these cases hasn’t changed much. We still use manual labor to count and build cases by hand and then a second set of hands and eyes are used to "audit" a small percentage of the shipments for accuracy. Using people to look over other people's shoulders just to verify they counted correctly is inefficient and often ineffective.
With RFID, we still use people in the distribution center to pack the cases, but now we can audit 100% of the items shipped with complete visibility. We are also able to correct any issues immediately before the items travel out the door. This prevents wasting time and resources to correct them later.
Reducing the cost of claims when retailers receive incorrect items from their brand partners is another major advantage, and greatly increases efficiency in the supply chain.
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