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German Clothing Retailer Adler Gives RFID Robots a Spin

The company is among several retailers that are using MetraLabs' new Tory robotic system to automatically count inventory and record merchandise locations within its stores.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 12, 2016

German clothing chain Adler Modemärkte is among a handful of retailers using an RFID-enabled robot called Tory to count inventory and identify the locations of merchandise on store shelves each day. The robot and the software that manages the data it collects are provided by German technology firm MetraLabs.

Adler is carrying out a pilot project involving two Tory robots that it purchased, one for use within its store in the city of Erfurt and the other at the store located at its corporate headquarters in Haibach. The company plans to expand the deployment to other stores later this year. Adler, which already attaches passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to most merchandise it sells, has been using handheld readers at all of its 177 stores for some time, says Roland Leitz, the company's head of IT. Compared with manual or bar-code-based inventory checks, he adds, checking inventory via RFID handhelds "speeds up stocktaking significantly." However, Leitz notes, because the process requires that an employee walk through store aisles and past shelves, waving the reader at nearby items, "it is manual work that ties up capacities of staff."

The Tory robot, shown here in one of Adler's stores, can capture the tag IDs of products located as far away as 8 meters, at a rate of up to 250 tags per second. (Photograph by Andreas Reuther)
Tory (the name is derived from the word "inventory") offers an alternative. The robot can be set loose on a store floor, and will use sensors to navigate its way around the sales area, reading tags as it goes. "Our aim is to reduce administrative tasks even further so that resources can be allocated to sales activities," Leitz explains. "With the help of a robot, stocktaking can be conducted more often so that data on the availability of goods is always highly up to date."

Adler launched the robot deployment in October 2015, Leitz says, and plans to expand the pilot to include as many as 10 stores during the course of this year. "The number of stores that will be permanently equipped with the system has not been determined yet," he states, "and depends on the outcome of the pilot phase."

Currently, there are more than 200 MetraLabs robots deployed at stores, industrial sites, museums and restaurants around the world, says Johannes Trabert, MetraLabs' co-founder and executive partner. A handful of them, Trabert reports, are the newly released Tory model being tested for RFID inventory tracking.

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