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Ambitious RFID Pilot Launches With a Single Reader

Spanish children's apparel producer Bóboli installed an RFID reader at its distribution center to track about 200,000 individual pieces of clothing. The installation is the first phase of a project the company expects will eventually cover all of its inventory and extend to store-level RFID tracking.
Jun 16, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 16, 2008—Bóboli, a Spanish designer and retailer of children's apparel, has installed an item-level RFID system at its distribution center to manage approximately 10 percent of its products. The company headquartered near Barcelona plans to track all goods at its distribution center at the item level, and expand to item tracking at retail stores next year, according to Didier Mattalia of TAGSYS, which worked with Bóboli to develop the system and provided the RFID reader and tags for the first phase.

Pre-installation planning revealed the system could reduce the amount of time inventory sits in the distribution center by five full days. The initial system will be used to automatically record goods received and to record the contents and verify the accuracy of outbound shipments bound for stores. Bóboli installed a single UHF read tunnel at its distribution center about three weeks ago to track all the garments in one fashion collection, which are tagged by their manufacturer in Morocco.

Cetemmsa, a Spanish technology developer focused on textiles and smart materials, partnered with TAGSYS on the project. Avery Dennison used TAGSYS UHF inlays to create the RFID labels for the system. The RFID label is embedded in the Bóboli brand label on each item.

The initial system will manage about 200,000 individual pieces of clothing. The pilot will run for approximately three months, although Bóboli expects to keep it operational after that and expand item tagging and tracking to other suppliers, Mattalia told RFID Update.

"This is not a go/no-go pilot. It is more of a progressive rollout," said Mattalia. "Bóboli knows the value of RFID in logistics, and they think they know specifically what they can improve."

"For us, this is a strategic bet. We are going to optimize our flows to keep up with our expansion, while reducing our operational costs and staying a step ahead of our competitors," Bóboli operations director Domingo Garrido said in TAGSYS' announcement.

Bóboli products are sold at 800 locations in Spain, including 30 of the company's own stores, and at more retailers around the world. All retail locations are served by a single distribution center. For now, a single RFID read tunnel is sufficient to record all inbound and outbound shipments.

"This project is significant because Bóboli is not a large brand," said Mattalia. "Apparel RFID solutions have real ROI, and it is not just for the big brands. Small and medium apparel companies can also get positive return on investment."

The project is also significant because Bóboli isn't treating it as an evaluation pilot and appears committed to expanding RFID operations to cover more inventory and eventually to manage goods in stores. There appears to be a strong climate for item-level adoption in the European apparel industry, and in southern Europe and the Mediterranean in general. An executive from Alien Technology noted this trend earlier in the month when the company announced a new clothing manufacturing client (see RFID Helps Manufacturer Sock Away 40% Productivity Gains). The following coverage since last fall provides more examples:
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