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BT Trace Brings RFID Retail Solutions Customized to User

The British company's customers include a global luxury retailer that is using the technology to ensure stores in North America and elsewhere are properly stocked with inventory.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 09, 2014

For the past two years, BT Trace, a division of British Telecommunications (BT), has been offering RFID-based solutions to its customers.

BT Trace first launched in October 2012, with a product portfolio known as BT Supply Chain Solutions. The portfolio included multiple solutions offered regionally, before the firm renamed its products as BT Trace, with specific vertical markets established to meet customer needs. In addition to BT Trace for Retail, the company offers BT Global Trace for Supply Chain Visibility, BT Asset and BT Inventory Trace (for use with both bar-code and RFID technologies) and BT Trace for Health (to track mobile assets at hospitals via radio frequency identification).

Keith Sherry
BT Trace for Retail enables the customization of each deployment based on the needs of a particular retailer. This approach of customizing the solutions is aimed at boosting the adoption and success rates of RFID for retailers in Europe and globally.

One of BT Trace's clients is a global, luxury garment retailer that is currently in the process of tagging millions of its products with EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags as part of an item-level RFID deployment using handheld readers to ensure that store shelves worldwide are replenished when necessary, and that goods are never out of stock. At five of its North American stores, at which the technology was initially trialed for three months during the summer of 2013, the company reported that sales and gross margin both increased by five percent, thanks to improved inventory accuracy at those locations. The retailer is now tagging goods sold at other stores in various countries around the world, and is providing those stores with handheld readers. During the three-month pilot, the retailer tagged 1.6 million items. Since then, it has tagged another 5.5 million and has trained 300 store employees to use the technology.

The pilot and the deployment that followed illustrate the kind of customized solution at which BT Trace excels, according to Keith Sherry, BT Trace's director of business development for supply chain. For one thing, he says, the pilot was carefully orchestrated to include the training of personnel regarding the technology, and included biweekly meetings between participating stores in order to share learnings.

Prior to launching the RFID system, the retailer reported to BT Trace that its staff struggled to ensure the shelves were properly stocked while simultaneously providing personal assistance to customers. Typically, each store received several thousand customers daily, and maintained an inventory of 50,000 items for sale. The best way to ensure that the shelves were stocked, Sherry says, was to conduct regular merchandise counts, but the manual process counts generally took two workers four hours to complete for a single product category (BT Trace does not say how many categories a store typically has).

The version of BT Trace for Retail that the retailer is using consists of BT Trace software, a variety of UHF EPC RFID tags selected based on cost and form-factor for different garment types, and Motorola Solutions' MC3190Z handheld readers. Employees use the readers to identify missing items, or to search for a specific garment.

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