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Chinese Opera Gives RFID Its Props

Taiwan's GuoGuang Opera Co. has deployed an RFID system from EPC Solutions Taiwan to help track the locations and distribution of thousands of costumes and accessories stored within its warehouse.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 03, 2014

Taiwanese theater company GuoGuang Opera Co. has been producing Chinese operas since it formed through the merger of three opera troupes in 1995. The works it presents are highly elaborate, with eye-catching visual effects and scenes incorporating acrobatics and kung fu. A performer may wear a costume composed of a dozen pieces, as well as carry a variety of props.

GuoGuang Opera Co. is known for incorporating modern technology, including special effects, into its traditional theatrical programs. This month, the company is turning to technology to solve the problem of locating costumes and props among the 65,000 items that it stores at a warehouse. With RFID tags and readers, GuoGuang hopes it can ensure that the pieces are easy to find when needed, and that nothing ends up missing at the worst time possible—right before a performance. The system that tracks those items, supplied by EPC Solutions Taiwan, includes ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, handheld and desktop RFID readers, and several "Smart Rails," each with a reader antenna running the length of the rail, on which costumes are hung. EPC Solutions software manages all of the collected read data, enabling the opera company to locate items more quickly at its warehouse, as well as monitor how often costumes and props are used.

EPC Solutions Taiwan's L30 laundry tag is sewn into each costume's collar or other section with a seam.
GuoGuang's performers are responsible for retrieving and returning costume pieces, headgear, knives, swords and various other props, depending on the opera in production at any given time. Most productions use 300 to 500 pieces each. The management of those costumes and props had been a highly manual process, with the warehouse staff inputting each asset's serial number and description into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Until now, GuoGuang had no record of exactly where within the warehouse every item was stored. When actors searched for props or garments, many were located in wooden boxes, so they had to open each box and rummage through the items contained within, looking for what they wanted. Inventory was often moved within the storage area, and while some workers knew where a specific item had been relocated, others did not. This meant that considerable time was spent searching for items and asking other employees before a particular piece needed could be found.

In addition, the costumes are very expensive. Few tailors can duplicate the garments' ancient style. The loss of even a single piece of clothing would thus be costly for the opera company.

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