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Korean Clothing Company Adds RFID to Its Supply Chain

The Basic House is applying EPC Gen 2 tags to garments at its manufacturing plants, and is also deploying RFID interrogators at two of its DCs and, initially, at 159 of its stores.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 01, 2010Korean clothing company The Basic House has begun deploying and testing an RFID system at its manufacturing sites, distribution centers and stores, that it expects will improve efficiencies and reduce out-of-stocks once the system is up and running next month. The RFID system should also enable the firm to better forecast and plan the manufacturing and shipping of its garments, based on more accurate inventory counts, says The Basic House's general manager, Daan Jang. What's more, he expects it to also reduce out-of-stocks at the company's stores.

The system includes handheld and portal readers from Minerva, in addition to EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) UPM Raflatac DogBone RFID tags attached to each garment, as well as to the boxes in which the garments are shipped from the manufacturer to the DC, and then to a store.

The Basic House designed and installed shielded RFID gates, to prevent the unintentional reading of other tags in the vicinity.
The Basic House manufactures four fashion brands, which it sells at its own stores specific to those brands, as well as at department stores operated by other retailers. The company wants to use RFID to eventually track all of the garments, but is starting with just two fashion brands: Mind Bridge and The Class. Mind Bridge operates 86 stores in Korea, while The Class has another 73, all of which will use handheld interrogators to read the tags this year as shipments arrive from a DC, and conduct subsequent inventory checks.

The company's factories have begun tagging approximately 2 million pieces of these two brands, and will continue tagging all items within those brands as they are manufactured. The Basic House projects that the number of tags it applies to garments and boxes will reach a total of 10 million sometime in 2011. To track all of these garments, the firm designed its own RFID printer-encoder system—known as the RFID Automatic Encoding Machine (RAEM)—as well as RF shields for its readers, in order to reduce stray reads. Korean automation services company Korea Trade Network (KTNET) developed software to interpret the RFID numbers and link them to the company's existing inventory-management system.

The RFID Automatic Encoding Machine contains an RFID interrogator from Minerva. Factory workers can use the RAEM to encode and print RFID labels, and to test the labels' embedded RFID tags. If a tag fails to read properly, the RAEM halts operation and alerts staff members. In this way, Jang says, the production of any non-readable tags is nearly eliminated.

The Basic House's manufacturing sites in China are employing the RAEM to encode each item and box tag with a unique ID number, at a rate of approximately 1.6 seconds per tag. Once the tags are encoded, printed and read, they are attached to each garment's hangtag, and that tag's unique ID number is linked, in the company's back-end system, to the item's brand name, year, item, season, style, color and size.

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