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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

The receiving process with RFID typically takes 15 seconds for each pallet, Boselli reports. The leather is then stored until it is required for the first manufacturing phase. At the time that it's needed, staff members locate the leather and use a handheld to indicate which item is being transferred to the cutting area. If the tag ID is unreadable, they can alternatively scan a bar code also printed on the RFID label, or simply key in the ID number printed there as well.

During inventory checks, Poltrona expects to save many hours of labor. Although full inventory checks have not yet been performed using the RFID system, Boselli says the company anticipates the labor hours required to be approximately one day for one to two people, both onsite and at the third-party warehouse.

Because inventory checks will be faster, Boselli predicts that the company will be able to conduct them more frequently. This will ensure that the firm has a more accurate inventory account in its system, thereby enabling it to reorder leather materials as soon as they are depleted.

Poltrona Frau is now receiving RFID-tagged leather from its suppliers. By the end of this year, Boselli says, he expects his company's residential division to have finished tagging all leather that it has in stock, as well as updating the system with information related to each piece of tagged leather. Next year, the solution will be expanded to include leather for transportation-sector products, as well as for all other brands used for commercial customers.

According to Boselli, the system could also be expanded to other materials used in furniture making, such as wood. "We started with leather because we manage so many pieces that are each unique," he explains. "Then we can begin applying the technology to other raw materials."

The company tried multiple kinds of hardware before implementing the system on the residential side of its business, testing about 20 different types of tags, as well as a variety of fixed RFID readers, a tunnel reader and handhelds. Aton provided Poltrona Frau with labels containing embedded Lab-ID UHF tags made with NXP Semiconductors' Ucode 7 RFID chip. Staff members found that the handheld reader was the easiest hardware to work with. "They found the guns more comfortable both for incoming and inventory [reads]," Boselli says.

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