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Liverpool Achieves 100 Percent Case-Level Tagging

The Mexican department store chain is receiving RFID-tagged shipments from all 2,500 of its suppliers, and says it enjoys improved, streamlined order management and excellent inventory accuracy as a result.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 15, 2010Liverpool, a 76-store Mexican department store chain, is expanding its RFID-tagging program, which it rolled out in late 2007 after two years of testing. Since that time, more than 2,300 of the retailer's suppliers have begun shipping their products in tagged plastic totes to Liverpool's main distribution center, where the EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags are read and used to confirm incoming shipments, as well as ready them for distribution to retail stores. Now, 200 suppliers that receive goods in single-use cardboard cartons are also tagging their shipments, thus enabling Liverpool to leverage its RFID infrastructure for all incoming products at the DC. The retailer estimates that the suppliers will apply 3 million EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to single-use cartons annually.

The distribution center ships "softline" products—any products that consumers can take home with them from a store—to all 76 Liverpool locations, explains Luis Vicente Ortega, the retailer's dynamic response manager. Larger items, such as furniture or appliances, are handled at a separate DC, where RFID is not being used.

At Liverpool's DC, a worker moves a pallet of tagged cases through an RFID reader tunnel.
Most of the suppliers rent reusable logistics units (totes, pallets and other reusable containers) from Liverpool, which they use to ship product to the distribution center. By attaching RFID tags to the 600,000 logistical units in its rental pool, Liverpool was able to quickly roll out the RFID program without its suppliers having to make any changes to their business processes, and without having to invest in RFID technology. For a variety of reasons, however, 200 of the company's suppliers do not utilize these reusable containers. These suppliers have recently begun attaching labels with embedded RFID inlays to cases of goods before they are shipped to the DC, and they also attach an RFID label to each pallet.

The labels contain UPM Raflatac ShortDipole inlays made with Impinj's Monza 3 chips. Mexican firm Digilogics, which acts as UPM's tag converting partner in Mexico, embeds the inlays into the labels and employs a Zebra Technologies RZ400 RFID printer to encode a serialized shipping container code (SSCC) onto each label's RFID chip, and to print that same number on the label in bar-code form. Grupo Hasar acted as the RFID systems integrator for the project, selecting the necessary RFID hardware and helping Liverpool to design and deploy the system. Hasar also provided the middleware required to send the shipping data from the RFID reader to the warehouse-management software used by Liverpool.

Before sending out a shipment, a supplier (whether it utilizes reusable totes or one-time-use cardboard boxes) scans the bar code on the label of each tote or box before placing that container onto a pallet. Once the pallet is fully loaded, another RFID label is placed on the pallet, and that label's SSCC is associated with those of all totes or cases on the pallet. The supplier transmits all of this information to Liverpool in an advance shipping notice (ASN), which Liverpool then uses to confirm the order upon receipt.

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