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Gerry Weber Sews In RFID's Benefits

The company plans to integrate EPC Gen 2 tags into the care labels of all garments it makes, and expects to quickly recoup its cost by using the tags to track inventory and deter theft.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 02, 2009Gerry Weber International, a Germany-based manufacturer of women's fashions, has decided to apply EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to the 25 million garments it produces annually, beginning next year. The company also plans to roll out RFID technology at 150 of its company-owned retail stores in Germany and abroad. The application is designed to improve the efficiency of its incoming goods and inventory processes, and to function as an electronic article surveillance (EAS) system.

The RFID tags will be embedded into the garment-care labels that Gerry Weber sews into its clothing. The company claims it will be the first in Germany to sew RFID-enabled care labels into apparel, as well as the first to rely solely on RFID for EAS.

The care tag of every Gerry Weber garment will contain an EPC Gen 2 RFID tag.

The company developed the garment-care labels together with global label company Avery Dennison. The garment-care labels will be applied during the manufacturing process, and will contain Avery Dennison's AD-827 RFID inlays. The tags can be washed in water at a temperature of up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degree Fahrenheit) without damage, and dry cleaning will not harm the inlays either. This is important, in case a garment needs to be cleaned before being sold. When the clothing is purchased at a store, Gerry Weber's staff will cut off the RFID tags upon request from the customer. If a tag is not removed, however, it will remain functional only for up to three washing cycles.

Gerry Weber first gained experience with RFID through a trial involving Galeria Kaufhof, a department store chain operated by the Metro Group (see Retailer Tests RFID on Garments). Later, in 2008 and 2009, the firm participated in the Ko-RFID project, a federally funded research effort focused on the collaborative use of radio frequency identification (see Ko-RFID Tackles RFID Business Collaboration Processes).

Gerry Weber also conducted extensive, parallel tests of RFID on its own, in which it tested reusable RFID tags in its supply chain to monitor inbound goods, picking and outbound shipping. The tests were carried out at six warehouses, and at two of the company's German retail stores. Partners for the test of RFID in logistics processes included IBM, which served as the project integrator, Checkpoint Systems, which provided reusable tags and RFID-enabled packing tables, OATSystems, which supplied middleware, and Intermec, which contributed the RFID handheld devices.

At a presentation at RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2009, held in Germany in October, Ralph Tröger, an IT project manager at Gerry Weber, said his company learned from the logistics processes testing that it can gain "real value" from RFID, particularly by using the technology for picking and outbound shipping processes. However, he noted, some RFID hardware was too large for retail distribution centers, and handheld readers required improved battery life, and needed to be lighter.

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