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RFID Brings Gains to Small Apparel Brand

Southern Fried Cotton, which opted to leverage a technology more commonly deployed by big companies, has brought its customer chargeback rate down by 98.8 percent, increased its warehouse efficiency and achieved an ROI within less than a year.
By Claire Swedberg

Prior to the RFID deployment, the process of tracking orders was manual. Warehouse employees utilized paper and pen to pick and pack orders, and to record what was happening. That meant listing what was being packed in the boxes (typically, about 60 items are placed inside each carton, and an order consists of about 20 boxes). That list was then input into the company's electronic data interchange (EDI) system to create a shipping notification. By using the RFID tags already applied to its products, the company theorized that it could improve its packing productivity and reduce the incidence of chargebacks. However, as a small company, SFC needed a solution that would be lower in cost than many RFID solutions and easy to implement, without expensive integration or hardware costs.

Southern Fried Cotton approached GS1 US and Avery Dennison for a solution. Harrington entered into a conversation with Daniel Lusty, Avery Dennison's market-development manager. Printing hangtags onsite and on demand proved to be the most cost-effective solution, Lusty says. With the RFID system, the company was able to integrate a single tag-encoding and -printing process in only one step. In that way, it could create RFID labels for goods sent to the largest customers—those requiring RFID labels, as well as those issuing chargebacks. SFC chose Avery's AD 237 EPC UHF RFID inlay, which was integrated into each SFC hangtag and could be printed on an Avery Dennison Tabletop RFID (ADTP1) printer.

Daniel Lusty
The company acquired an Avery Dennison High Density Read Chamber (HDRC), which was modified for SFC's purposes to read tags as orders are fulfilled. First, boxes are packed according to shipping orders. Each product's unique tag ID number is linked to that item's stock-keeping unit and other descriptors in SFC's own software. The HDRC comes with firmware that links data related to each tag ID with shipping orders as the boxes are being packed.

Each box loaded with goods is placed in the HDRC. Once a user presses "go," the device captures each tag ID, links that data to the shipping order and displays what has been packed. The device has a flash drive connected to it, which is loaded with the purchase orders of the day on software provided by Avery Dennison. Within 1.5 seconds, Lusty explains, the HDRC firmware links the purchase-order data from the flash drive with the tag reads, after which the device displays feedback regarding the order. In the event of a discrepancy between the order and the tagged items being read—such as a missing or extra item, for instance—that information is displayed on the screen so the order can be repacked as needed.

Once the shipping process has been completed, Harrington removes the flash drive from the reader, which has stored all of the RFID read data captured related to the orders packed. She then connects the flash drive to her computer so printed reports can be generated. This process creates an electronic record, she explains, while also identifying any packing errors, without the high cost of integration or recurring fees for a cloud-based solution. "We're not a big company," she states. "We had to do it based on our budget."

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