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Serge Blanco Finds ROI in RFID

The French company's clothing factories attach EPC Gen 2 RFID hangtags to the garments they make, enabling Serge Blanco's distribution center to process incoming and outgoing shipments more quickly and accurately.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 01, 2009Serge Blanco, a maker of high-end clothing well-known in France, is employing EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to receive incoming goods at its distribution center (DC) in Toulouse. The application, which became operational in the middle of this year, has allowed the firm's employees to spend more time inspecting the quality of goods received than it was able to previously, according to Mathieu Pradier, the company's finance and IT director.

When Serge Blanco places a garment order with a supplier, it prints bar codes on a corresponding quantity of RFID hangtags, then sends those tags to the factory where the garments are made. At the plant, workers attach the paper hangtags to garments at the production site, and ship them to Serge Blanco's DC. Most tagged garments are received folded in boxes, though a few, such as coats and jackets, arrive on hangers. The company estimates it will use one million RFID hangtags per year.

Serge Blanco uses Toshiba printer-encoders to generate RFID hangtags.

When the boxes of tagged goods arrive, an employee moves them through a tunnel reader that interrogates the tags, thereby identifying the garments. The computer system compares the box's contents (as determined via RFID) with an electronic packing list for that order. If the order arrives as expected, a green light gives workers the okay to proceed. If not, a red light shines, and the staff must determine the cause of the mismatch.

The workers then move the tagged items to a picking area in the DC, which is outfitted with six RFID readers installed beneath tables. The staff picks products from the large boxes, and creates small packages for retail stores served by the company. Serge Blanco has approximately 320 retail stores and shops throughout the country. The under-table readers interrogate the tags on garments in the boxes, and the system confirms the picking's accuracy. Packages are then shipped out to individual customers.

The process for accounting for hanging items is similar, but relies on a wireless handheld RFID reader that Pradier says resembles a tennis racket. Workers use the device to read tagged items in hanging boxes by moving the reader around the outside of the box. This is done when goods are received, and again after they are picked and ready to send to retail stores.

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