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Clothing Manufacturer Invests Its ROI in RFID

Gardeur AG's RFID pilot to track garments from production to its warehouse using reusable tags was so successful that it plans to roll out the system company-wide.
By Rhea Wessel
The RFID system was combined with Gardeur's bar-code tracking system, which retailers still use to identify items. A bar-code printer produces two labels; factory workers in Augustfehn attach one to the individual garment with a tagging gun, slipping the other around the neck of the hanger. They then attach a credit-card-sized passive 13.56 MHz Infineon transponder to each item using the tagging gun, which has a unique identification (UID) number that can't be erased. Tagging dates are recorded in the system and linked to each tag's UID, allowing each tag to have a "new" ID upon reuse.

After RFID-tagging the clothes, workers use one of two available handheld Casio DTX PDAs that include Microsensys RFID modules and run RFIT’s operating software to read the bar code and write the information from the bar code onto the chip. The Casio DTX terminal transfers the data to Gardeur's custom-designed information system via wireless LAN, after which bar-code numbers and ID numbers are linked in Gardline, Gardeur's proprietary enterprise resource planning and warehouse management system.

Workers place all garments on hanging carts—about 100 on each cart—and wheel them through a 2-meter-high gate fitted with an RFID antenna from Germany's TBN GmbH and an interrogator from Scemtec. Here, interrogators read the tags once more and send the data to RF-iT's You-R Open operating software. You-R Open functions as data and device management middleware, and also offers an administration suite that e-mails the IT administrator if an interrogator fails. You-R Open collects and processes all the data from devices, then formats it to be compatible with Gardline. Gardeur also runs RF-iT's You-R Smart "fashion solution," which allows managers to make sure all goods shipped from Augustfehn actually arrive in Moenchengladbach.

"Gardeur now knows what's in the warehouse, and if everything shipped was received," says Berger. "When they receive a truck load, goods are scanned and managers know immediately if a delivery was complete. The system is basically event-driven."

Workers can glance at a computer screen to confirm that data from the portal interrogator was transferred to the You-R Open software. Information from You-R Open in Augustfehn is synchronized automatically with the central database in Moenchengladbach several times per day, allowing managers to see which items are on their way to the warehouse.

When goods arrive at the Moenchengladbach warehouse and distribution center, the tags are read again as they pass through an RFID portal identical to the one set up in Augustfehn. Gardeur says its read rates average near 100 percent, allowing managers to confirm that they have actually received all shipped goods. "We are very pleased with the accuracy of these readings," says Ballweg. "It is much more precise than bar codes or manual counting."

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