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RFID Brings Lululemon's Inventory Accuracy to 98 Percent

The yoga and sports apparel retailer has increased its e-commerce sales by tracking the locations of millions of goods as they move throughout its stores.
By Claire Swedberg

Initially, Tyco led a professional-services planning effort to scope out the full range of hardware, software and services that would be required. Part of this engagement, Wilson says, was intended to plan the actual rollout to all stores. "As part of this phase," he states, "we designed and documented the primary use cases identifying value, and worked with the lululemon team to develop the eventual technical architecture and software configuration."

The vast majority of garments and accessories, including yoga mats and blocks, have soft tags applied to their "Why We Made This" (WWMT) hangtags that are attached to goods at the point of manufacture in more than 30 factories throughout 15 countries, using Avery's RFID printers and cloud-based printing service.

Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions' Robert Pernice
Due to the short turnaround time required for orders placed, as well as the printing of specific details about the products on the labels shortly before the goods are shipped, the majority of lululemon manufacturers generate the labels onsite.

Vendors access the service and download the WWMT hangtag information and sequences of RFID EPC identification numbers, explains Robert Pernice, Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions' market development manager, so that they can then be encoded and printed out on the Avery RFID printers. "Many factories continue to use Avery Dennison's service bureaus to source finished RFID media, but it was clear, in this case, quicker media turns would be needed," he states. "In general, garment delivery lead times between factories and retailers are shrinking, and there is a growing need for faster turnaround." Lululemon, he adds, is on the forefront of this trend.

The RFID deployment was completed quickly, on a wide scale across the entire supply chain—including the implementation of RFID tag printing and encoding at more than 30 factories across 15 countries. "Something like this had not been done before on this scale," Pernice states. Avery Dennison worked with each nation's regulatory agencies to ensure that the RF transmission from the RFID printers met that country's standards. The majority of printers were certified quickly, but the firm was able to support the nations that took longer using their service bureaus in Asia and North America.

Lululemon's DC workers tag any goods that are received or reworked at the distribution center without tags attached. The employees download tag information from Avery Dennison's system for the untagged goods, then print and encode the labels using either an Avery Dennison RFID printer, or encode the data onto blank RFID tags on rework station PCs running Tyco TrueVue software.

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