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Colombian Retailer Crystal Vestimundo Plans Second Item-Level RFID Pilot

Results of its first three-month pilot showed a significant reduction in labor associated with the shipping, receiving and inventorying of tagged apparel items; now, the company is preparing to run a more ambitious in-store trial.
By Mark Roberti
Nov 15, 2011Crystal Vestimundo, a leading producer and retailer of apparel in Colombia, has concluded a three-month pilot of radio frequency identification technology, in which the firm tagged 5,000 items, comprising 50 different apparel products, and tracked their movements from distribution center to store. The pilot results were positive, the company reports, so it now plans to launch a second, more ambitious pilot in February 2012, which could lead to a full-scale rollout.

The first trial, conducted in conjunction with LOGyCA, a Bogotá-based consulting and services company, ran from June 20 to Oct. 30, 2011. Apparel items manufactured by Crystal Vestimundo were tagged with UPM RFID Belt and Sirit RSI-674 tags, both based on the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID standard. The tags were applied to the garments at Crystal Vestimundo's DC in Medellin and were sent to two stores in the same city. The items were then received into inventory at the store using a Motorola Solutions MC9090 handheld reader. The goal was to determine if RFID could reduce labor costs, while also increasing shipping and inventory accuracy.

Laura Leal Londono, Crystal Vestimundo's logistics manager

At the recent RFID Textil y Confeccion (Textile and Clothing) conference, hosted in Medellin on Nov. 9, 2011, by RFID Journal and LOGyCA, Laura Leal Londono, Crystal Vestimundo's logistics manager and the head of the RFID team, told the audience that it typically takes a worker 24 minutes to receive a box containing 150 clothing items. RFID, she reported, reduced the process to less than four minutes.

Without RFID, Leal said, it currently takes approximately 15 workers eight hours to inventory the store's stock of 20,000 items, and the inventory must be counted at night, in order to avoid disrupting operations. Only 50 stock-keeping units (SKUs) within the store were tagged with RFID, Leal noted, but it was clear that the technology could greatly reduce the amount of time required to perform inventory counts. "We could take inventory every day, not just once a year," she stated.

The pilot required staff members to perform additional processes, because the RFID system was not integrated with the store's back end. Employees thus had to receive goods the standard way, as well as scan items with RFID tags. Sometimes, goods that were supposed to be tagged were not read via RFID because they were missing a tag. Eventually, Crystal Vestimundo assigned a worker to ensure that every item intended to have an RFID tag did, in fact, have one. The company ultimately achieved 100 percent read accuracy at the back of the store, Leal said.

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