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Swiss Retailer Using RFID to Track Cases in Reusable Containers

Swiss retailer Manor is using RFID to track reusable transport containers at eight stores and two distribution centers, and plans to expand the system to all 82 of its retail locations. RFID applications automate shipping and receiving operations at stores and DCs.
Sep 02, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 2, 2008—Swiss retailer Manor is deploying RFID systems to track cases at stores and distribution centers in a project it plans to expand to all 82 of its retail locations. Manor is currently using RFID systems at eight stores and two distribution centers to verify that outbound shipments contain the right cases, automatically record cases when they are received at retail stores, reconcile shipments with orders, and provide other data to enterprise applications.

Passive Gen2 RFID tags are being applied to reusable transport containers (RTCs) that are used to convey goods through Manor's distribution operations. The tags, like the transport containers, are reusable. Most tags are being applied by Manor's suppliers in Asia, though the retailer tags some of the RTCs in its distribution centers in Hochdorf and Möhlin, Switzerland, according to Peter Blair of Reva Systems, which announced its involvement in the project.

"RFID tagging goes across a broad mix of products," Blair told RFID Update. "It runs from pots and pans to skis."

Manor is not tagging food or apparel items but may include them later, according to Blair, who said the retailer is also considering item-level tagging applications for the future.

Manor is currently processing about 10,000 tagged RTCs per week. Two distribution centers and eight stores have been RFID enabled. The rollout will likely expand after the holiday season, according to Blair. Tagged containers are read when they are received at the distribution centers and recorded into inventory. Store orders are packed onto pallets and verified prior to shipment by reading the RFID tags and comparing the data to order information contained in an Advance Ship Notice EDI message sent by the store. RFID readers at dock doors also verify that pallets are being loaded onto the correct trucks. The verification process is essentially the same at retail stores, with fixed-position readers used to check-in merchandise.

Manor worked with Swiss systems integrator Rodata Group to develop the system, which uses INfinity 510 fixed-position readers from Sirit at stores and distribution centers. The readers are networked to a Reva Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) at each site, which receives the RFID data, identifies the reader, and applies business rules and processing before forwarding edited data to Manor's enterprise applications from Oracle that run most operations.

According to Reva, one of the reasons its TAPs were picked for the project is that they can help determine which direction an RFID tag is moving past, and then can apply logic to record whether the object is entering or exiting the area. There appears to be growing interest in this capability, as reader makers Alien Technology and Impinj each announced enhancements to their hardware that support direction monitoring (see Alien Adds Major Capabilities to Gen2 RFID Readers and Impinj Claims RFID Tag Direction Victory).

There is also growing interest and activity in retail RFID projects. Technology consulting firm Gartner recently told RFID Update that 24 percent of major retailers worldwide had RFID systems or pilots in place for case and pallet tracking (see Gartner: Case/Pallet RFID Still in "Trough of Disillusionment"). Market research firm IDTechEx recently forecast RFID use in the apparel sector will grow 70 percent annually through 2013 (see IDTechEx: RFID Apparel Market to Grow 70% Annually).
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