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Clothing, Car-Cover Manufacturers Track Work-in-Progress via RFID

The companies are using an NFC-based system from Shopfloor to view who completed which tasks, in order to identify assembly bottlenecks, facilitate quality control and monitor worker productivity.
By Claire Swedberg

Since the system was taken live, Hershoran says, the shoe company has found that workers are more efficient—not only because they spend less time manually recording their activities, but also because they have an incentive to work faster since they are being paid according to the number of products they complete during a given shift.

When NFC technology is being used to track WIP, Hershoran says, tags could be permanently attached to products, if a company so chooses. "Once a product's complete, the manufacturers have a choice," he adds. By permanently embedding the NFC tags, a firm could provide a way to continue identifying each product even after it is provided to the customer. This could prove useful, for instance, if merchandise is returned due to a defect.

In the long run, Hershoran reports, Shopfloor aims for its customers to use NFC technology not only to improve their own work processes, but also to offer extra value to their consumers. If an NFC tag were to remain with a product when it was delivered to a store, shoppers could scan that tag to learn more about it—either after bringing it home, or before making a purchase. "In that way," Hershoran says, "even 20 years down the road, every jacket would have a story to tell."

Shopfloor is currently in discussions with a U.S. men's suit manufacturer to implement the technology for work-in-progress tracking, and to allow consumers to access product information while in stores. The tag would be sewn permanently into each clothing item, such as a jacket. During manufacturing, data could be collected about that item, including information regarding the fabrics, the work being performed on the product and pictures of the item as it is being assembled. Operator names or other information could be provided as well. In that way, a consumer could learn information about an item before paying for it.

Shopfloor is in discussions with potential customers about using NFC RFID tags as a consumer-based feature that could make a high-end product more desirable, and is also working to establish a standard with regard to where NFC tags should be applied to products so that shoppers could easily find and scan labels while shopping or after making purchases. "We are developing an example app to be able to show to potential manufacturers," Hershoran states. "Once we have our first customer doing this, we would work with them to develop the standard and work with a [standards] organization to do so."

What's more, Hershoran says, the labels could be useful for consumers when it comes to laundry. Users could access care information about a product by tapping an Android smartphone against its label. If information (such as an item's heat-tolerance level) needed to be updated, that could be accomplished in the software, thereby making it possible to revise information for consumers—even after they purchase a garment.

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