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U.K. Home Goods and Apparel Retailer Boosts Accuracy With RFID

Matalan has deployed RFID across all 220 stores to bring its inventory accuracy above 95 percent, helping to ensure that products are available for omnichannel sales.
By Claire Swedberg

After tagged goods are received at the store, the tags are read on a cycle-count basis using a Zebra Technologies RFP8500 sled reader connected to a Zebra TC51 mobile computer, running a Clarity app to display read data and help associates perform inventory-management processes. Each store is equipped with multiple handheld readers and mobile computer kits. To ensure wireless connectivity between the handhelds and the software, SML utilizes existing Wi-Fi connections at the stores.

The unique ID number encoded on each tag is linked to the product's stock-keeping unit (SKU) in the cloud-based Clarity software, which resides in Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform. The data is then integrated with Matalan's own inventory-management software, Frew explains.

SML's Dean Frew
The read data is displayed on the handheld device, as well as on the Clarity dashboard, so that it can be accessed by store personnel conducting inventory counts, or by store managers, as well as at the company's headquarters, thereby providing a companywide view into inventory availability and performance. To further ensure the accuracy of inventory at each site, store associates conduct stock counts using the handheld readers at regular intervals.

The software can display progress in the receiving of goods, according to a particular order, on the handheld device. As such, associates can view any products that may be missing from an order as they read the tags. "We deployed a version of Clarity that was enhanced based on requirements that Matalan and other customers had shared," Frew recalls. These included enhancements to the stock-counting, receiving, returns and click-and-collect functionalities. Other features include peer-to-peer sharing of tasks for sales associates, aimed at improving operational efficiency.

Clarity's Cloud dashboard and enterprise portal provide a companywide stock count in real time, Frew notes, while also reporting analytics. To accomplish a fast rollout across all stores, SML used its Clarity Solution Simulation software to simulate the entire 220 stores and the millions of tags being stock-counted, thereby minimizing risk and ensuring optimal performance during the full deployment.

"It was a very collaborative team that worked on this project. That's one of the highlights of a project like this," Frew states. "We've found this collaborative partnership with our customers allows us to get to the successful end goal faster, with a lot less effort." In the future, he adds, Matalan is considering leveraging the RFID tags to enhance other processes and improve customer service at the stores.

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