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Cycle Shop Speeds Up Service With RFID Technology

Bike Lane, in Shenandoah, Texas, is expanding an RFID system from PTS Mobile that locates bicycles in its storeroom, to include repairs and the tracking of tools to accomplish those repairs.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 09, 2017

Bike Lane, one of the Houston area's busiest bicycle sales and repair businesses, is expanding a radio frequency identification-based solution to include repairs, as well as tracking the bikes to be sold. Since the company began using RFID technology to track its new bicycles in its back room in 2013, it has boosted sales and reduced labor related to employees searching for inventory, says Herb Beimgraben, Bike Lane's co-owner. The TracerPlus RFID technology is provided by Portable Technology Solutions.

Bike Lane is a family-owned business that has served the Houston area since 1995. It sells bicycles, as well as accessories and repairs, and also tunes up used bikes for customers. However, because it is located in a shopping mall with limited space, it must store boxed inventory in tight quarters that can make it difficult for employees to find the inventory they seek.

Bike Lane's Herb Beimgraben
The store front and storage area encompass about 8,000 square feet, and within that space, 300 to 400 boxes of new bikes must be stored throughout eight 30-foot aisles of shelving. The boxes, measuring approximately 6 feet by 1 foot by 3 feet in size, come from a dozen different vendors, and also consist of different styles, sizes and colors. "We use every square inch we have," Beimgraben says.

Assemblers in the store are tasked with finding the correct bike in boxed storage before building it for display as needed. When the process was manual, it was often time-consuming. In addition, customers sometimes want to see a specific bike that is not on display, requiring store associates to retrieve it from storage. Before the RFID system was implemented, that meant workers would need to walk through the back room searching the printed labels to locate the one the customer seeks. That process could take 15 to 30 minutes. If the store was busy, Beimgraben says, this wasn't feasible, so the staff would have to ask the customer to come back later, after the bike had been retrieved. That kind of inconvenience could mean the loss of a sale.

So four years ago, Beimgraben began investigating solutions and opted for a TracerPlus system consisting of RFID tags, a handheld reader and an app to store the collected read data. With the TracerPlus RFID Tag Locator solution, when each new product arrives in its box, store personnel apply an EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag with a unique ID number, then manually record that number on paper, along with the bike's details.

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