Company News • 21.09.2011

Fashion retail banking on RFID

RFID also paying off for small and medium-sized companies

EuroCIS, The Leading Trade Fair for Retail Technology, is being held from 28 February to 1 March 2012 in Düsseldorf. A key area in the EuroCIS product range specially tailored to the retail is the RFID theme. The abbreviation stands for a technology, which enables the contact-less transfer of data, without visual contact, from a label with data-carrier, the so-called transponder or tag, to an RFID reading device. RFID has been used for about six years for example in the logistics field for container or shipment tracking. RFID is now also making inroads into the retail space. Especially in fashion retail, RFID is regarded as a key technology, which enables the rationalization potential to be realized and processes to be organized more efficiently. The reason for this is the comparatively high unit numbers and average prices as well as the resulting relatively fast return on investment.

The pioneers here include among others the Bielefeld shirt and blouse specialist Seidensticker with its own retail activities. The technology partner is IT-provider Futura Retail Solution AG, Stelle/Hamburg. “At Seidensticker RFID means that every individual article can be tracked across all inventory locations. Entire merchandise packages can be scanned in one go, for example at the goods-in stage or during stock transfer within the warehouse”, explains Futura expert Rüdiger Hulla. At Futura they also point out the possibility of linking RFID with the EDI electronic data exchange system, which is in widespread use within the retail trade, and even with article surveillance: “In this process the delivery or goods-in data transferred using EDI simultaneously contains the electronic product code EPC for every individual article. This data can then be downloaded onto the RFID scanner. “In the contact-less, article-scanning process, the goods-in data is compared with the EDI data. The controlled result is stored and transferred to a database, which can also be used for article surveillance. Conventional article surveillance processes are thus rendered superfluous.

What is important is the realization that RFID can now also be used in the numerous medium and small-sized companies within the sector and that it is paying off for these companies. Johannes Schick, Managing Director Höltl Retail Solutions, Bad Hersfeld, refers to the up-market Minden boutique “Sigi”, which uses the RFID-compatible Höltl merchandise management system. Here RFID produces the advantages the experts have been talking about for a long time: “Higher inventory accuracy, smaller supply gaps, faster checkout processes and stocktaking along with the detection of stock discrepancies attributable to incorrect entries”, are the key aspects stated by Schick.

The specialists in IT solutions within the retail sector, which cover all the RFID-supported processes in their merchandise management systems, also include Torex Retail Solutions, Berlin. In this connection, the checkout and retail branch management solution from Torex is used in all the “Houses of Gerry Weber” throughout Germany. For Gerry Weber, during the production stage, the RFID tag containing the clearly recognizable individual serial number (EPC) is sewn into all individual articles. This code is then stored in the merchandise management system. At the goods-in station in the retail branch, the merchandise management system transfers a list of the incoming components to the Torex checkout system. After scanning the incoming products, the POS solution receives the individual serial numbers of all new components using mobile data registration (MDR) and stores them in a database in the back-office. The data for those components currently located within the store can thus be accessed on the retail branch PC at all times. Christian von Grone, General Manager IT at Gerry Weber: “At all 425 stores RFID has been in operation since March 2011 almost error-free. Up to now there have been no problems also as far as the checkouts with scanning of the RFID labels are concerned.”

The suppliers of stationery and mobile RFID readers have also long since done their “homework”. User-friendliness is the top priority. “Even employees without any EDP knowledge have to be able to use it perfectly. After all, no retailer wants to spend money on expensive training courses” according to the analysis by Peter Schmidt, Managing Director of Advanced Panmobil Systems, Cologne, which among others supplies barcode scanners and RFID readers. The company is banking on “automatic data networking”. This refers for example to the possibility of transferring the data on the mobile RFID readers using a USB stick via every PC and, as a result, avoiding investments in software solutions.

“The new generation of readers is offering greater value for money, becoming more aesthetic, delivering higher performance and can communicate with Internet-compatible mobile telephones”, adds Timo Krauss, Managing Director Gebit Solutions, Berlin, a supplier of RFID solutions for the retail trade, whose solutions are also being tested at the s. Oliver clothing chain. In this connection, Gebit provided the RFID software with central database and evaluation functions, which links all terminal devices and reading points.

In this pilot project at s.Oliver the stocktaking was conducted at the participating branches once a week using mobile hand-helds. With this method inventory discrepancies were detected and immediately corrected while replacement orders were placed for the missing goods. This is a decisive advantage particularly for those companies, who rely heavily on automatic replenishment orders. The readers, which can register up to 3,500 articles per hour and person, proved the efficiency of RFID in the test phase at s.Oliver.

Norbert Rickert, Sales Director Central Europe at Motorola Solutions, points out the key functionalities of modern RFID readers. “Today those RFID solutions are the focal point, which offer a range of versatile applications, can read several RFID tags simultaneously, quickly and correctly, and are cost-effective in the process.” He added that at EuroCIS 2012 Motorola will be presenting its previously smallest and lightest RFID hand-held reader, which has been designed with a very high RFID read-performance for the retail. It immediately directs the sales staff to the article they are looking for via the integrated “RFID localization engine”.

Important: New readers are not always necessary for the application of RFID. This is pointed out by Höft & Wessel, Hannover, a company, which, under the Skeye brand among others, offers solutions for mobile data collection in the retail. Gerhard Frömming, Product Manager at Höft & Wessel: “High-performance readers and smaller devices from Höft & Wessel, which are already used in the retail trade, can also be retrofitted for RFID use if required.”

At EuroCIS 2012 visitors will be able to obtain a comprehensive overview of all possible applications for innovative RFID technology for the most diverse sectors of the retail. EuroCIS 2012 in Hall 9 at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre is open to trade visitors from Tuesday 28 February 2012 until Thursday 1 March 2012, daily from 10:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs. Day tickets are Euro 22.00 (Euro 15.00 online in advance) and two-day tickets Euro 38 (EUR 27 online in advance). Students and trainees pay Euro 10.00. Each admission ticket includes free transport to and from the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre on local Rhine-Ruhr Transport Authority (VRR) buses, trams and trains. Further details on EuroCIS are available on the internet at www.eurocis.com .

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