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C&A Expands RFID Usage to Track Inventory

The clothing company plans to employ EPC tags and readers to manage shipments of high-demand items to a total of 25 stores, and to use the technology to monitor inventory at each location.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 29, 2013

Dutch clothing company C&A is expanding its radio frequency identification system from what was initially a trial involving five of its stores in Germany, to cover 25 locations. C&A, which manufactures its own apparel and footwear for men, women and children, is testing whether the technology can improve its supply chain visibility and in-store inventory, to ensure that at all times, certain goods are on the shelves for purchase at each of its stores.

The company, which operates approximately 1,600 stores throughout 20 countries, specializes in providing affordable, quality apparel, with a focus on sustainability—for example, clothing made from organic cotton. Garments are made as ordered by specific stores, and the firm strives to ensure not only that an adequate quantity of goods are on its stores' sales floors and in their back rooms, but also that merchandise is replenished as when sold.

C&A's Joachim Wilkens

The company commenced a trial deployment of an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC RFID solution in June 2012, in an effort to provide an automated system including advance shipping notices as goods leave the factory bound for a specific store, as well as inventory data that tracks which goods are in each store's back room and on the sales floor, which have been sold and, in some cases, what has passed through the doors of a particular location. In this way, the firm aims to better ensure that "never out of stock" (NOS) items are always on the shelf, says Joachim Wilkens, C&A Group's director of supply chain development. Such goods include women and children's underwear, men's and women's jeans, and men's suits, trousers and blazers.

For NOS items destined for the RFID-enabled stores, EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags, supplied by Avery Dennison, are attached to hangtags at the point of the garments' manufacture. To date, 11 apparel suppliers are applying and reading RFID tags at a total of 13 locations. When one those suppliers receives an order from a store, via a software application provided by Creativesystems, workers at that factory utilize a Motorola Solutions MC3190-Z handheld reader or FX7400 fixed reader to interrogate the tags, and to store each tag's ID number with the appropriate stock-keeping unit (SKU) for that item. As the order is packed, the tags are read and confirmed in the system as appropriate for that particular order. The Creativesystems software then sends an advance shipping notice to the store, indicating what has been packed and shipped.

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