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Cleor Strikes Gold With RFID Solution

The custom system enables the French jewelry retailer to read RFID tags on each item of jewelry at its distribution center, as well as in stores, reducing manual labor and improving shipment accuracy.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 03, 2011French jewelry retailer Cleor reports that since it rolling out an RFID system at its 50 stores, an inventory check conducted at each site takes only several hours to accomplish, instead of the several days it had taken prior to the technology's adoption. The solution was installed over the course of eight months, initially at Cleor's Paris-area distribution center and at 10 stores, and ultimately, at the company's remaining 40 retail locations.

Cleor has been selling jewelry for more than a decade, at locations in Paris and in other cities in northern and western France. By the end of 2011, the company intends to have added 10 additional stores. Currently, the firm sells approximately one million pieces of jewelry annually. Cleor's DC receives bags of jewelry from its suppliers in Europe and Asia. Each bag contains up to 100 pieces of jewelry, and the DC's staff must unpack the bags and match every item against the order sent by the jeweler to that bag's supplier. To do this, a worker must scan a bar-coded label on each item, thereby recording its receipt in the company's back-end management system.

To take inventory of items in a store's display cases, Cleor's staff uses a handheld RFID reader, holding a paddle antenna over each item to read its tag.

The items may then be put into storage, or some (typically 20 to 30) may be placed into smaller bags for shipment to individual stores. When a store receives a shipment, employees there scan each piece's bar code to verify when that item has been received, and again periodically during store inventory checks, to determine which products are in the stock room or on the sales floor. The bar-coded labels are small, however, and require a considerable amount of handling of the jewelry item itself by staff members in order to ensure that every bar-code label could be scanned. The process was time-consuming for both receiving and inventory management, the company reports, and mistakes could be made if a bar code, for example, was illegible or inadvertently not scanned.

When Cleor sought to replace that system with one involving radio frequency identification, it wanted a solution that could be installed easily and not disrupt its existing management processes. The resulting system includes custom reader antennas provided by Tageos, RFID readers from Impinj and RFID-enabled handheld computers supplied by Psion Teklogix.

Staff members at Cleor's DC place a bag of ordered items on an RFID mat, in order to verify a shipment's accuracy and update its status.

The solution, installed by Frequentiel, needed to be integrated with Cleor's existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software so that none of the store's existing management processes would need to be changed. It also required hardware that could read very small RFID labels at the DC and the stores, while ensuring that only one item's tag would be read at a time during inventory checks at the stores, so that workers could compare the product with its picture, thereby verifying that no tag from one item had been switched with that of another. Frequentiel worked with Tageos, which developed the reader antennas for the Impinj Speedway Revolution readers, and the Psion Teklogix handhelds with built-in Impinj Indy reader chips, says Scot Stelter, Impinj's senior director of product marketing. The system also employs six Toshiba RFID label printer-encoders.

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