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Indian Conglomerate ITC Focuses on RFID Expansion

The company's item-level RFID deployment is already yielding some significant benefits at two distribution centers and eight of its Willis Lifestyle stores.
By Rhea Wessel
Nov 14, 2008ITC Ltd., an Indian conglomerate that reported more than $5 billion in revenue in 2007 and employs more than 29,000 workers in 20 countries, is tracking clothes and accessories from production to the point of sale. To accomplish this, the company is employing an application that uses 2 million EPC Gen 2 RFID tags per year, O.P. Bansal, divisional CIO for ITC's lifestyle retailing business division, told attendees at last week's RFID Journal LIVE! Europe conference in Prague.

The project, launched in September 2006, was fully implemented at two distribution centers and eight stores in New Delhi within 12 months. The company is now focused on expanding the application to other retail stores around India, and acquiring the hardware it requires to make better use of the tagged items by instituting RFID-based processes, such as receiving and inventorying goods at stores.

Partners in the project include Motorola and Intermec, which are providing RFID interrogators, and Zebra Technologies, which has supplied ITC with four RFID label printers. UPM Raflatac provided RFID labels containing Impinj chips. The project was implemented by IT service provider ITC Infotech, an ITC subsidiary.

ITC prints bar-coding and readable text onto the adhesive RFID labels centrally, then sends them out to hundreds of producers of clothes and accessories across India. The manufacturers attach a label to each garment's usual hangtag and ship the items to a distribution center in New Delhi or Bangalore. At the DC, the tags are interrogated in a tunnel reader affixed to a conveyor used for the receiving and shipping processes, while picking remains a bar-code-based process.

At the stores, tags are not read during receiving, since the company cannot obtain the readers it wants. The tunnel-style readers used at DCs would not be appropriate for the small space in a store's back room. Instead, the tags are read by interrogators installed under the checkout counter to speed up the sales process. Shoppers select goods and set them on the counter, where a sales terminal interrogates the items' tags and generates a bill within seconds.

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