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Coverall Maker Adds RFID to Its Shipping Process

Walls Industries, which sells work and hunting clothes, expects to benefit internally by integrating tagging into its warehouse-management system.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 23, 2006The last time you passed a construction site, you most likely saw people wearing coveralls or work shirts produced by Walls Industries. Since 1990, the Dallas-based company has sold more than 25 million coveralls and bib overalls throughout the world, in addition to thousands of camo T-shirts and rain jackets, thermal hoods and other garments. At its warehouse near Fort Worth, Walls is collaborating with its warehouse-management system (WMS) provider, Manhattan Associates, to integrate tagging into its current order-picking processes. The company hopes this will enable its warehouse to apply RFID tags to cases and pallets of products headed for Wal-Mart stores and distribution centers. The 70-year-old, family-owned company says it will comply with Wal-Mart's tagging mandate by its January deadline. More importantly, it plans to use the new tagging system to increase visibility into its shipping processes.

At the onset of each season, Walls sends large shipments of its latest product line to Wal-Mart. This includes not only work clothes, but also hunting apparel and other outerwear. In late summer, the manufacturer typically sends a large stock of clothing for hunters. Then, as stock levels fall, Walls sends smaller quantities—usually a small volume of cases—to replenish stock. The company sends both the large shipments and the replenishments from the same warehouse, but the former are shipped in trailers to Wal-Mart distribution centers, while the latter are shipped by overnight carrier directly to Wal-Mart stores.

For both initial shipments and replenishment shipments, Walls has been using the same order-picking process. As orders come in, employees route them into the WMS, which sends print commands to a bank of Paxar bar-code label printers. These generate enough shipping labels to fulfill the order. Order pickers carry these labels, which detail the stock keeping unit (SKU) number and quantity to be placed in each case. They then pick the garments, place each in a separate plastic bag, and use a handheld bar-code scanner to scan the bar code on the shipping label and then scan the bar-code label on each garment's bag.

To comply with the tagging mandate, Walls will use Manhattan Associates' RFID software EPC Manager. As the WMS receives orders headed for Wal-Mart distribution centers or retail stores, it will forward the orders to the EPC Manager, which will generate an EPC for each label, store a record for each order and label, and send the order information and EPCs back to the WMS. The WMS will then send print commands for these labels to the Paxar printer-encoders. The shipping labels these printers generate will have the same bar-code and human-readable data as the non-RFID printers, as well as an embedded RFID inlay onto which an EPC is encoded. For the initial, larger shipments, the cases will be palletized and the EPC Manager will also issue EPCs for pallet labels and correlate the EPCs of the cases on that pallet to the pallet EPC. The smaller replenishment orders will not be palletized; therefore, EPC Manager will not generate pallet labels for those orders.

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