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Colorado Liquor Retailer Gets Quick Payback From Low-Cost RFID Solution

Banana Belt self-installed a Truecount-designed system consisting of tags, readers, software and a printer-encoder.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 10, 2014

Banana Belt Liquors keeps its prices low by buying liquor in bulk and storing it within a warehouse prior to selling the product at its adjacent retail store in Woodland Park, Colo., located approximately 18 miles north of Pikes Peak. Tracking the cases of product in the warehouse, however, is a major task that can lead to confusion regarding what is or is not in stock, since it is not feasible to conduct complete inventory counts on a frequent basis. Therefore, Banana Belt's owner, Carla Clausen, has installed an RFID system that has eliminated the problem. Thanks to a solution supplied by Truecount, which the beverage company installed itself, Clausen says she now knows product is in the warehouse, and can conduct quick inventory checks to determine if that has changed at any given time.

Without an automated solution, Clausen says, she would print a spreadsheet and carry that around the warehouse, looking through product stacked from floor to ceiling, in order to see what she had on hand at that facility, as well as in the store. The process took many labor hours to complete, she notes.

To take inventory at Banana Belt's warehouse, owner Carla Clausen uses a Motorola MC3190-Z handheld reader.
Clausen's daughter, a computer science college student, had been reading about radio frequency identification and suggested the technology might solve the company's inventory problem. She says she approached multiple RFID vendors and discovered that the available options were more expensive than the solution she sought.

When Clausen explained her challenge to Truecount, the company replied that it could provide a reader workstation for interrogating tags via a PC storing Truecount's Essentials software package, as well as a handheld reader and passive EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, to be affixed to cases of product. This simple solution would be low-cost, she explains, and could be expanded to the store over time.

Truecount shipped the products to Banana Belt in September 2013, and spoke with Clausen over the phone as she and her IT representative installed and began operating the standalone system. (Flying an employee from Truecount's New Hampshire headquarters to Banana Belt's Colorado facility would have added time and costs to the project.) Initially, Truecount encoded and printed the tags that it provided to Banana Belt. Clausen, however, says she quickly realized she needed to be able to print and encode tags onsite in order to keep up with the high volume of goods entering the warehouse each week. Truecount then sent her a Zebra Technologies RZ400 RFID label printer-encoder, which she began using in November.

With the technology in place, as cases of new product arrive at the warehouse, Clausen or her staff use the RZ400 device to print and encode RFID labels made with Alien Technology Squiggle tags, pairing each label's unique ID number with data about that product stored in the Essentials software. Personnel then apply a label to each case and store it in the warehouse.

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