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Kids Clothes Firm Outgrows HF, Puts on Gen2 RFID

RFID infrastructure provider Reva Systems has announced that children's fashion apparel manufacturer Lemmi Fashion of Germany is converting its existing intercontinental RFID deployment from high frequency (HF) to ultrahigh frequency (UHF) technology, and using Reva's solution to unify and manage it.
Aug 22, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 22, 2007—RFID infrastructure provider Reva Systems has announced that children's fashion apparel manufacturer Lemmi Fashion of Germany is converting its existing intercontinental item-level RFID deployment from high frequency (HF) to ultrahigh frequency (UHF) technology, and using Reva's solution to unify and manage it.

Lemmi has manufacturing suppliers in both Asia and Europe, which tag the Germany-bound garments at the factory before shipment. The tags are read at various points en route to Germany, then again upon arrival at the local Lemmi distribution centers, again during order processing, and once more as they are reshipped to Lemmi customers. A number of those customers themselves take advantage of the RFID tagging for their own processes, and Lemmi expects that such activity will only increase among its trading partners.

As Reva chairman and co-founder Ashley Stephenson told RFID Update, "Lemmi's is truly a global supply chain, item-level deployment, reaching from one end of the world to another."

In addition to its global scale, the deployment has a business case. "Lemmi has been quite vocal that this has been an ROI program," related Stephenson. "They actually make money by using RFID."

RFID helps the apparel manufacturer ensure that customers get the size and style of garment they desire, which in turn boosts sales. Recall that combating out-of-stocks (OOS) is one of the key perceived benefits of using RFID in the retail supply chain. Retailers and their suppliers forfeit billions every year to lost sales when customers are unable to buy a desired product because it is out of stock. OOS also drives business to competitors and deteriorates customer satisfaction overall.

To date Lemmi's deployment has used HF technology, but due to the higher speed, better flexibility, decreasing cost, and improved performance of UHF, the company is swapping out HF for UHF. "If you were trying to read 100 garments, UHF could read them all ten times faster than HF," explained Stephenson. The cost of UHF tags has come down markedly, a trend that is only expected to continue. UHF vendors like Impinj have invested in and advocated a flavor of UHF technology called "near-field", thereby expanding the range of UHF infrastructure options. And lastly, since the introduction of Gen2 (the UHF standard), UHF products have exhibited dramatically better performance than their predecessors.

"UHF Gen2 garment tags are now priced significantly lower than comparable HF tags, and UHF readers offer both near- and far-field interrogation options for the most dynamic set of read ranges," said Lemmi Fashion CIO Goetz Pfeifferling was quoted in the release.

"Fashion and retail RFID tagging did start with HF," recounted Reva's Stephenson, noting giant retailer and RFID early adopter METRO Group's early pilots as an example. "But now everything is migrating to the UHF Gen2 standard in the retail and fashion world."

Also significant is that Lemmi's deployment is an item-level one. The company's decision to retire HF in favor of UHF is another example of Gen2's increasing dominance not just at the case and pallet level, but at the item level as well. At least in retail and fashion; item-level pharma remains a battleground between the two technologies.

Stephenson pointed to Lemmi's adoption of the Reva TAP solution as evidence that his company's RFID network infrastructure approach is gaining traction. "Reva gives them a unified infrastructure, whether in its China base locations or European base locations," he said. "We take care of managing and operating all the readers and tag data, and provide them with an operational layer that ensures their RFID systems are running smoothly."

Reva has announced a number of key customer wins lately, including Sony, Dow Corning, and HP. Arguably most notable is METRO, which is moving its RFID pilot to production and encouraging suppliers to get on board (see METRO Moves RFID Pilot to Production, Taps Reva).

"With UHF technology and Reva's RFID infrastructure we have the ability to implement new ROI-generating use cases and future-proof our deployments by insulating applications from the device layer in ways that were not possible with HF and server-based custom middleware," explained Lemmi's Pfeifferling, referring to the company's previous architecture. Reva's CEO Tom Schuster commented, "The fact that they are transitioning their successful RFID program from HF to UHF and committing to Reva's RFID network infrastructure for accuracy, scale, and ease of deployment validates both the maturity of UHF technology and the benefits of a network approach to implementing sustainable RFID systems."

Other vendors involved in the Lemmi conversion include German systems integrator meco group and Checkpoint Systems, which is providing RFID portals, printers, and related hardware.

The Lemmi announcement is the latest to come out of Europe, which appears to be accelerating RFID adoption this year. In addition to METRO's graduation from pilot to production, aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced aggressive plans to deploy RFID across its value chain (see Airbus Taps ODIN, Signals Aerospace RFID Adoption). Stephenson affirmed the flurry of activity but noted that other regions are moving forward apace. "Europe is hot at the moment, but we're seeing lots of activity in Asia and the US, too." He believes that last year's successful demonstration of Gen2-tagged pallets passing simultaneously through 36 dock doors changed the mind of European end users that had previously believed scaled supply chain deployments were not possible in Europe due to restrictive RF regulations (see European RFID Test Sees Near-Perfect Read Rates).

Massachusetts-based Reva counts SAP and Cisco as investors, but Stephenson said that the company will not need to seek additional financing. "We're very well funded, so we don't need any more money. And we're increasingly successful, and getting more customers all the time." Separately, the company just announced version 2.0 of its flagship TAP solution.
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