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Clothing Manufacturer Invests Its ROI in RFID

Gardeur AG's RFID pilot to track garments from production to its warehouse using reusable tags was so successful that it plans to roll out the system company-wide.
By Rhea Wessel
After the tags are read, they are removed from the garments and returned to the Augustfehn plant. There are currently 20,000 tags in circulation, each of which can be reused 20 to 30 times. When prices drop to roughly 12.5 cents, Gardeur plans to implement one-way tags so garments can be tracked from the factory line to the retailer.

At present, Gardeur pays about 50 cents for each durable, reusable tag. During the initial phase of operations, Gardeur had expected tag prices to drop, and had prepared the system to switch over to one-way tags. But tag prices did not come down as quickly as hoped, and Gardeur decided to stick with reusable tags until tag prices eventually decline. At that point, the company explains, everything will be in place for a quick change-over to one-way tags.

As a result of the pilot's success, Gardeur has announced plans to deploy the RFID system in three Tunisian factories, using its ROI to help cover the cost. The company hopes to install the system, which will track garments from Tunisia to Germany, by September 2006. It once again expects a quick ROI since it will reuse the tags. Gardeur will need 250,000 tags in Tunisia and six handheld interrogators—four for daily use, plus two backups.

In addition, the company is considering taking the system to an independent Romanian plant that supplies Gardeur, but no time-frame has been defined for this project. In later RFID implementations, the firm envisions using the technology to manage its warehouse better by knowing what goods have been shipped and which garments were moved to different storage zones. It will also use RFID to sort items for quick shipping.

Meanwhile, the company is evaluating other hardware. "We are constantly evaluating new chips, antennas and readers to make sure we always have the latest improvements available," says Andreas Ferstl, a senior engineer for installation and customer projects at RF-iT. "When we expand to Tunisia, we could implement what we are already using in Germany, but we want to see what is available now on the market to get an even more robust system and optimize the costs."

Gardeur and RF-iT are working with the Fashion Group RFID to create a coordinated textile industry solution. Fashion Group RFID is an industry consortium backed by Gesellschaft für Consulting und Synergie mbH (GCS) near Munich, in cooperation with standards setter GS1 Germany. Consortium members include: H&M, Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH and Kaufhof Warenhaus AG. Fashion Group RFID is one of several groups of businesspeople working to influence industry standards.

Gardeur's goal is to establish best practices that can be used worldwide. The firm wants to develop a textile smart label and standards for embedding RFID tags permanently into garments. It also hopes to negotiate for volume discounts for the industry, and to educate the public about privacy issues.

Gardeur supports the Fashion Group RFID because it sees the organization as a way to protect its investment by ensuring that the industry adopts compatible technologies. "We are convinced that our positive experiences can be transferred to other companies in the textile sector," Ballweg says.

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