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Poltrona Frau Uses RFID to Track Leather Materials

The Italian luxury furniture company is having its suppliers attach a passive UHF tag to each piece of leather so that it can expedite the receipt of leather upholstery material, as well as its inventory-taking process.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 13, 2015

Luxury leather furniture company Poltrona Frau Group has begun deploying a radio frequency identification system to reduce time and errors related to the receiving of leather upholstery material from its suppliers, and to inventory checks at its own storage area and third-party storage offsite. Roberto Boselli, Poltrona Frau Group's CIO and digital communications manager, will describe the deployment and future phases of the installation at RFID Journal LIVE Europe, to be held on Nov. 9 in London, England.

Poltrona Frau makes high-quality leather-based products for three sectors: residential, transportation and contract-based orders. Residential products include couches, chairs, tables and other furnishings, while transportation consists of leather seats for cars, airplanes and yachts. Finally, the contract sector includes auditoriums, theaters, lounges, museums, hotels, resorts and other companies that use the leather and textile-upholstered furniture at their facilities.

Poltrona Frau's leather suppliers attach an RFID label to the interior side of each piece of leather.
The company's suppliers make leather material (branded Pelle Frau) specifically for Poltrona Frau and send it to the company's manufacturing plant, located in the central Italian city of Tolentino, where the material is kept onsite until needed for a specific order. Each year, the company typically consumes 300,000 sheets of leather for the products it sells, of which there are approximately 200 different sizes, types and colors of leather offered.

Poltrona Frau always keeps a specific quantity of each type of leather onsite, ready for any incoming order. The company makes furnishings only after receiving an order, to ensure that the leather on each item in that order is a perfect match for its mates. The manufacturing process can take several weeks to complete, so Poltrona Frau promises the finished product will be shipped about four weeks after it is ordered. However, if the company does not have enough of a specific type of leather onsite, it must order more from a supplier; the process of creating that leather, including tanning and other treatment, can take six weeks.

For that reason, it is imperative that the furniture company's leather inventory never runs out. Before the RFID system was installed, when a pallet arrived at the receiving area, the staff manually had to examine the 100 or so pieces of leather stacked on that pallet to determine what had been delivered, and input that data into the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

When a piece of leather was needed, a staff member removed it from the warehouse and manually input data indicating what was being taken to the assembly floor. Inventory counts were conducted only twice a year because they were so labor-intensive. Poltrona Frau also had to send employees to the third-party company that stores additional inventory nearby. As a result, it typically took seven workers more than 10 days to count all inventory on and off site.

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