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Retail event to examine RFID trends

Friday November 16 2012

EuroCIS 2013 in Düsseldorf finds track and trace technologies moving further into apparel retailing sector

EuroCIS 2013 in Düsseldorf finds track and trace technologies moving further into apparel retailing sector


Once again the central themes at annual European retail technology trade fair EuroCIS 2013 will include products and services using around radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.


The spread of this radio technology – ensuring goods can be identified all along the value added chain without physical or line of sight contact – is being particularly pushed in the clothing, apparel and fashion sector, also internationally.


A variety of reasons for this increased sector adoption include falling prices for the hardware and RFID tags, along with greater performance and range and the opportunity for greater cost savings and efficiencies by integrating RFID and anti-shoplifting technology. The pressure of competition in the sector and thus the need to operate with as low as possible capital investment also requires accurate stock control and a very clear overview of inventory and its localisation.


Speakers and exhibitors at the event will examine a strong rise in the number of planned RFID launches among retailers with not only international but also regional operations.


Moving beyond pilot phase


“This is why RFID technology is seeing ever greater practical application after its initial test phase,” commented Klaus Schmid, vice president in Central Europe at Checkpoint Systems. Checkpoint is a specialist in RFID tagging, tunnel reader systems, ‘smart’ packing tables, picking control, goods dispatch sluices and anti-shoplifting technology.


Checkpoint has announced a new tag solution, incorporating the RFID radio chip in such a way so as not to compromise product value in any way. With the provider’s so-called RFID graphics tag, an extremely thin RFID inlay is added between the two sides of a conventional graphics tag. This means only one tag is needed for the brand’s logo and RFID data. Also, on the agenda are new RFID tunnel solutions. These are designed to convey the goods quicker through the RFID tunnel than before without compromising the reading performance of the RFID scanners inside.


Motorola Solutions also observes a wider use of RFID, particularly in the higher priced segment and in goods entry processes. “Thanks to on-going further development of RFID technology today’s solutions are ever more versatile,” said Norbert Rickert, sales director in Central Europe for Motorola Solutions. For instance, he said that, with RFID, it is now possible to reliably identify items even in tightly packed boxes.


Motorola acts as a supplier of RFID reader devices including stationary and mobile RFID readers, RFID antennas and corresponding device management. Their customers include internationally operating companies like American Apparel, which tracks goods using item-level RFID tracking systems throughout its supply chain. Rickert also reported a well-known jeans manufacturer has also started to put RFID tags on its products too.


Track and trace intelligence


Alongside RFID applications like inventory management and anti-shoplifting systems, RFID systems are increasingly being used for the information and analysis or ‘business intelligence’ it can offer. “The data generated by RFID reader points can be intelligently evaluated and analysed more now than ever before,” explained Tom Vieweger, key account manager at Enso Detego, a company specialising in RFID software product and system implementations. Range optimisation and the avoidance of waste are among the objectives here. Vieweger was also convinced that RFID would develop into a standard technology in the field of inventory and replenishment management.


The “next step” will be linking RFID technology with cloud computing. This enables retail users to rent internet-based software functionality from a third party. “The cost and investment reductions associated with this will also help make RFID pay off for more small retailers than before,” added Vieweger.


According to Rüdiger Hulla, project manager at the IT supplier Futura Retail Solutions, the possibilities offered by RFID are far from being fully exploited. He predicted: “When retailers know where each individual item is located at any given time aspects, like age assessment and optimum goods presence, offer the greatest potential.”


Technology enters the mainstream

Hulla also said that RFID would in future open up new avenues in terms of addressing customers in a more targeted way. Futura-Lösungen has supported all the application options of RFID used so far in retail from labelling to anti-theft devices. At EuroCIS the company will be demonstrating, among other things, how to link RFID with mobile checkouts.


It is large companies like Wal-Mart, Gerry Weber, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Adler, GAP and Levi’s, whose RFID activities or plans are causing a stir. However, Höltl Retail Solutions is also observing an increased interest in RFID among small-to-midsized enterprises (SMEs). “The new options include the integration of data from the EPC [Electronic Product Code] used in RFIDs into the familiar EDI [electronic data interchange] processes between trade and industry. This will provide additional efficiency in this communication chain,” argued Johannes Schick, Höltl managing director.


He also pointed out that RFID would deal much more intelligently with the tricky area in retail of customer complaints. “The RFID radio chip makes it possible for an article to be clearly identified when a customer brings it in for exchange,” he said, enabling staff to help customers exchange product more quickly, even if they do not have the receipt.


Optimising the customer experience


However, the basis of RFID, i.e. the coding of information within the EPC for the identification of individual items, is now not only being used just to track and identify goods. For instance, with the support of IBM Deutschland, Metro subsidiary Real is now using an electronic coupon system in all German outlets for returns transactions. The electronic coupons that customers present at the checkout on their mobile phone can be clearly identified thanks to a barcode that presents an EPC in coded form.


“This means tried and tested RFID infrastructure can enter the field of retail marketing as the EPC can be used not only for identifying real goods but for digitalised information carriers like electronic coupons,” explained Frank Schmid, Senior Management Consultant at IBM. At EuroCIS the company will be presenting solutions of this kind under its “Smarter Commerce and Mobility” banner.


EuroCIS 2013 will be open to trade visitors daily from Tuesday, 19 to Thursday, 21 February 2013, from 10am to 6pm. Click here for more information.