RFID Solutions for the Retail Industry

Imagine a shopping trolley in a self-service store equipped with a scanner and a touch-screen computer. You scan the goods, put them in the cart, and the computer gives information on each of the goods and offers additional purchases. The computer constantly shows the amount of the cost of the selected goods, so that you know every minute how much you will spend. Having finished choosing purchases, you go to the self-checkout or cashier. Since the amount of your purchases is already known, and all of them are packed, the waiting time is minimal. You just have to pay for your purchases.
An innovation that provides such a shopping trip is called RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. RFID helps retailers around the world meet the needs of the most demanding customers and thus increase sales. This technology is gradually changing the retail industry, providing sellers with information on the status and movement of goods in real time, increasing warehouse productivity and preventing losses. Many of the world's leading retailers have planned the introduction of RFID technology. This move will affect more than 200,000 manufacturing enterprises and suppliers and direct the global hardware and software market to support RFID.


RFID helps improve inventory management
Inventory management often takes a lot of time and money. RFID provides control over the storage and promotion of goods in real time. Automation of this process will allow warehouses and shops to reduce costs and avoid both a shortage of goods and unnecessary orders. The ability to track goods also helps in time to determine the needs of a warehouse or store in certain goods, they can monitor the stocks of goods enjoying the greatest consumer demand, and replenish them in time.
Customer service improvement
Retail business directly depends on customer satisfaction with the quality of service. Using RFID, retailers can determine the exact location of any product at any time. Customer requests are processed through a centralized database. Thanks to the RFID tags, the desired product can be instantly found in any of the stores. Such availability of information about products significantly reduces customer service time and offers a completely different level of service. Improving the efficiency of your work will allow buyers to make more targeted purchases.
How to keep and interest buyers
RFID could be the future retail technology. Using RFID, stores will be able to collect and accumulate information about the purchases of their customers and offer them gifts, focusing on individual tastes. RFID will be able to identify the buyer, show the history of his purchases and help the seller personalize the customer service. For example, one of the retail clothing stores in New York uses RFID tags to record complete information about each particular product — the fabric of the fabric, the available sizes and colors, and recommended accessories and accessories. RFID readers installed in the fitting rooms immediately display all the information on the monitor screen, so that customers can familiarize themselves with it and make a decision without leaving the fitting room. And since the privacy of customer information is the most important concern of the seller, its protection is ensured by advanced security technology. In this case, the accumulation of information about customers is not an indispensable attribute of RFID technology, and you can always refuse to use it.
Familiarity with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology
1. Carefully evaluate the feasibility of such an implementation and develop a plan for the necessary infrastructure changes.
2. Consider your existing infrastructure tools as the basis for RFID implementation.
3. Implement RFID technology in stages so as not to go beyond the budget, increase return on investment (ROI) and minimize potential losses.
4. Ensure that your existing storage systems can handle the increased amount of information.
5. Once again, make sure that the received data is reliable, as it is vital for the successful implementation of RFID technology.
RFID Overview
The RFID system includes labels, readers and a number of devices that store and transmit information about the product during its movement. These devices are supported by sophisticated software that allows for the rapid collection and distribution of information about the location of the goods.
All information recorded on the RFID tag (product characteristics, size and price) accompanies the product as it progresses. A special reader can instantly scan all information from a label from a distance of 1-2 meters.
Microsoft standards and RFID
Microsoft is playing a leading role in developing RFID standards. In April 2004, she joined EPCglobal Inc., which was established by leading companies and industries to create a standardized network that supports RFID worldwide. In addition, Microsoft has initiated the creation of a new global organization - Microsoft RFID Council, whose goal is to create conditions for the effective use of RFID technology. She will be engaged in the development of RFID solutions in accordance with international standards. These solutions should be inexpensive, easy to use, built on a strong, scalable technological infrastructure. Microsoft RFID Council members include leading consulting companies, system integrators, independent software developers and hardware manufacturers.
Ten Myths About RFID
Greg Gilbert, Head of RFID Solutions and Strategy, Manhattan Associates
This article was previously published in Retailspeak Magazine.
Myth 1: Today there are no fixed standards for RFID
GTAG? ISO 18006.A? ISO 18006.B? Gen 2 EPC? The confusion of abbreviations has turned into a gloomy and frightening tangle, the matter was aggravated by the statements of some companies about the assignment of rights to standards. Today there are actually several RFID standards.
The main reason that the existing standards did not become generally accepted was that they were promoted mainly by technology companies. They had a solution, and they were looking for a problem to which to apply it. The ECP (Electronic Product Code) standards, however, were developed by end-user companies with the goal that each technology developed was applied in a specific business case.
Smaller companies are likely to follow the lead of their industry leaders as RFID standards continue to emerge, evolve and, ultimately, strengthen their position.
Myth 2: Replacing barcode based processes with RFID processes leads to an increase in return on investment (ROI)
Some companies tend to introduce technology for the sake of technology itself. For customer attention: RFID implementation does not guarantee a quick return on investment (ROI). To influence the result, the decision to implement RFID must be tied to a specific business goal.
Most companies simply do not benefit from switching to RFID technology. And in some cases it is even unreasonable. For example, if your warehouse has a reliable system for scanning barcodes from packages on a conveyor belt when loading into transport, switching to RFID will not give you anything. Why? Because your benefit (reduction of labor intensity) from replacing an automated bar code scan with an RFID system will be scanty.
If now you have each package manually scanned, automating the process of reading data could reduce the complexity of the process and improve productivity. In addition, the implementation of RFID will allow you to get a clearer and more accurate picture of those areas of your production that were previously lacking in information.
RFID is not new. It has been used for the last 10 years, while barcode technology has existed for 3 decades. Time has not confirmed the superiority of RFID in terms of return on investment (ROI), but, as many believe; it still needs to be checked.
Myth 3: RFID technology is beneficial only for retailers, but not for supplier companies.
Of course, such major retailers as Wal-Mart, Tesco, Metro, Target and Albertson's have become the most notable users of RFID technology, but some of the 500 largest supplier companies named by Forbes magazine (among them Procter & Gamble, Gillette and others) , intend to implement RFID technology throughout the supply chain.
Perhaps this solution will not help supplier companies increase their ROI, but they will get other benefits. If Wal-Marts and Metro introduce new RFID requirements, suppliers will need to meet new conditions and be prepared to change their technology strategy. RFID technology will serve as their means for obtaining detailed inventory information, increasing the transparency of supply operations and reducing the number of claims. For the first time, supplier companies will be able to share information, more effectively track supply chains, prevent dissatisfaction of their customers and meet their needs. All this generally leads to business expansion.
Myth 4: RFID technology is the only way to automate warehouse warehouse processes.
In certain cases, RFID technology can be used to automate warehouse processes, but it is not the only solution. In fact, one of the main indicators of payback in evaluating the use of RFID technology in a warehouse is that it helps to find areas where you can save money without using RFID technology.
Savings can be substantial for those manufacturing companies that, through automation, want to reduce labor-intensive paper processes. Marking of goods can be done using barcode technology (and not RFID technology), and yet it will significantly contribute to the return on investment, as the company reduces manual labor and thereby reduces the risk of operator error.
Another example is a manufacturer that puts bar codes on transport racks and containers. If at the same time the accompanying document containing the detailed description of the cargo (ASN) is never sent to the receiving warehouse, this means that this is an area, the improvement of which will improve the work with the client as a whole. Such a scenario does not require the use of RFID technology; it assumes only one small step to close the cycle of warehouse accepting processes - a particularly important link for developing manufacturers.
Myth 5: Electronic product code (EPC) is a barcode substitute in the RFID technology system (GTIN / UPC)
The electronic product code used in the RFID tags and the bar code are considered complementary technologies of data capture. Even in the case of widespread use of RFID technology, a bar code will be in demand for a long time, and will be used in parallel with RFID.
While the bar code reports fixed information for each type of product in stock, the electronic product code standardizes the inventory process. The unique capabilities of RFID technology allow you to track the movement of goods, which provides a deeper level of information about them, allowing both suppliers and retail outlets to easily track their localization at any given time.
But, despite the obvious technological and operational benefits of RFID, it will not replace barcode technology. Both types of technology find their application in today's rapidly developing business world.
Myth 6: The transition to RFID technology will not require equipment replacement and procedural changes.
The implementation of RFID will inevitably entail a review of existing business processes. With the development of technology and the emergence of new requirements, companies will have to revise the standard rules of equipment maintenance, if they want to reach a new level of performance.
They will need to ensure a high level of RFID compatibility with existing equipment — to properly position it, organize work, and even take into account its physical features. For example, the forklift may block the read signal. It may be necessary for the company to change the position of the reader or adjust the lift truck itself.
The good news is that these changes may lead to improvements in technological processes that did not occur if the company did not switch to RFID technology.
Myth 7: Only companies dealing with metal and liquid products will have to additionally adjust the readers
Despite the fact that earlier the use of RFID in relation to metal and liquid products was problematic, the technology continues to evolve and is subject to more stringent laboratory and industrial testing. Companies that have solved this problem in one way or another, willingly share their experiences and RFID implementation scenarios.
However, your own experience of combining RFID with your products and in your production environment is very important. You need to ensure that the EPC (Electronic Product Code) labels on your products, packaging, and conveyors will result in a constant reading speed that meets your expectations. Before deciding to make significant investments in RFID technology in your enterprise, conduct thorough testing of its applications in advance.
Myth 8: It’s easy to organize a continuous reading of the EPC (Electronic Product Code)
Although the use of EPC (Electronic Product Code) labels is more efficient than scanning, it does not provide a 100% guarantee of reliability. There are many factors that can prevent accurate and reliable read speeds. These include the size of packing boxes / containers, their quantity, speed of transportation, types of labels, placement of labels on a product, position of a reader / antenna, and even the contents of the product itself. It is necessary to ensure the availability of label reading and avoid situations where label reading is impossible without preserving the integrity of the packaging or consignment. Your goal should be to eliminate situations where continuous and continuous reading of labels is impossible.
Myth 9: All RFID labels are the same.
RFID labels are different. There are different types of labels for different uses depending on the production environment in which they will be used. For example, labels for the pharmaceutical, food and medical industries must comply with the sanitary standards of these industries, and they will differ significantly from the labels, for example, for a car factory or steelmaking enterprise. The following list of factors will help you determine which type of RFID label is best for your business:
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The distance at which the reading will occur
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Frequency used for RFID labels / signal clarity
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The price that suits you and will not prevent ROI (return on investment)
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Temperature / Humidity Compatibility
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Type of product on which the label will be - wood, liquid, plastic, metal
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Equipment location
Myth 10: EPC (Electronic Product Code) technology can only be used for consumer products.
  Although initially the EPC technology was developed specifically for consumer goods, its creation took into account the possibility of further applying EPC in other industries. The EPC in its current form contains a special tool that instructs other systems how to interpret the information remaining on the label. Today, there are 256 options for connecting additional coding schemes, while only 5 are used! Thus, there are many opportunities for its additional use - from NDC-codes in pharmaceuticals to automotive parts.
Conclusion
RFID requirements are determined by your production environment. RFID is not an offer that can only be considered in two ways: good or bad. It can be implemented in stages or applicable to specific projects that provide you with ROI (return on investment) benefits.
Get to know the experience of those “pioneers” who, by their persistence in testing and applying this technology, today contribute to the development of uniform RFID standards. Now is the time to explore the possibilities and solve the problems that can be encountered when using RFID, before you start investing money in equipment and software for the implementation of this technology. A balanced approach to the use of RFID will ensure a comfortable speed of its implementation, the most favorable for your business.