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Hampton Unlocks ROI From RFID

A supplier of locks and lighting to Wal-Mart deploys RFID "at minimal cost" and achieves benefits, including faster invoice payment and the ability to know which goods are lost or stolen.
By Jonathan Collins
Apr 11, 2005While Wal-Mart called on its top 100 suppliers to start RFID tagging of shipments to the retailer’s Sanger, Texas, distribution center beginning in January, another 37 smaller companies were so eager to get a jump start on using RFID that they volunteered to join the program. Hampton Products International was one of those suppliers. A privately held manufacturer of padlocks, door locks and outdoor lighting fixtures, Hampton counts Wal-Mart as its largest customer. By being among the first group, Hampton believes it will not only move ahead of its competitors in deploying and benefiting from RFID, but it will also have time to better understand the technology and how to best implement it before the company faces a deadline from customers such as Wal-Mart and competitive pressure from rivals that have adopted RFID.

“We want to own the technology,” says Brian Millsap, vice president and CIO at Hampton Products, which is based in Foothill Ranch, Calif. That strategy has meant that, rather than turn to a systems integrator or a single RFID package, the company used its own IT department to deploy its RFID system by working with a handful of technology providers. It has also meant that Hampton’s IT staff have been engaged in putting the tags on the cases, loading the tagged cases onto a pallet and then encoding and applying the pallet tag so the staff could learn how to use the technology.

“This was a team effort. We did it with in-house expertise and the help of our partners,” says Millsap.

Hampton Products headquarters and distribution center

Hampton Products worked with Avery Dennison Retail Information Services (RIS) to determine and deliver the specific RFID labels and label encoder-printers it would need. The company also deployed two readers from RFID equipment maker Matrics (now owned by Symbol Technologies) to help it assemble cases for orders for shipment to Wal-Mart as well as ensure each RFID tagged shipment is correctly assembled and shipped. To manage the RFID workflow, including tagging and verifying cases and pallets and linking its RFID network to its existing Exact Software WMS system, Hampton Products turned to RFID middleware specialist ConnecTerra and implemented ConnecTerra’s Compliance Jump Start (CJS) solution.

Hampton Products implemented the RFID system at its sole U.S. distribution center, in Foothill Ranch, Calif., where it receives and stores cases of products manufactured in Italy and China and processes them into shipments to fulfill specific orders. With an RFID network system consisting of just two RFID label printer-encoders, two stationary RFID readers and the middleware connection to its WMS system, Hampton Products began shipping tagged cases and pallets to Wal-Mart on Dec. 28 -- less than a year after Hampton first started investigating the technology.

Since that first shipment, the company has been tagging 3,000 cases a week, covering all the company’s 170 SKUs headed for Wal-Mart’s DC in Sanger. From this early, initial rollout, Hampton Products says it is already seeing benefits from deploying RFID for what it describes as a “minimal cost.” Hampton has spent less than $100,000 to date, including tag costs, to ship about 30,000 cartons. The company expects to recoup the cost of its RFID investment through a reduction in man-hours needed to pick and ship cases, improvements in inventory management (receipts, cycle counts, etc.) and increases in supply chain efficiency.

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