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RFID Helps Disney Employees Get Into Character

The company is using EPC passive UHF tags to track $100 million worth of costumes at its parks and on its cruise ships, making the issuance of garments a self-serve process, while also streamlining the counting of inventory.
By Claire Swedberg
The collected data enables management to know where garments are located, as well as how often they are used, and to compare that information with any laundry invoices (in the case of Disneyland and some other parks that employ outside laundry vendors). What's more, Disney uses the system to expedite inventory counts. Prior to the adoption of RFID, the inventory-taking process was performed by manually scanning bar codes. To manage this large task, the company had to shut down a location and assign 25 workers to scan the bar-coded label of every garment and accessory—a process that typically took nine to 12 hours to complete. Now, only one or two workers can finish the job within about an hour, using an RFID-enabled inventory cycle count cart with a reader and three antennas. Staff members simply roll the carts down aisles, reading the tags as they pass.

"Our project goal is to make ourselves more efficient and better manage inventory," Pagliuca states. "But when it makes cast members happier, that leads to a better day for them. Their first experience of the day is getting their costume. If they have a bad experience there, they can take that bad feeling to the guest."

An RFID reader built into the laundry chute identifies which costumes are returned.

Disney World has 25 costume-storage areas and 40 issue counters (at which costumes are checked out, and which are now RFID-enabled), and checks out 23,000 costumes daily. Altogether, Disney is currently tracking 3 million garments and accessories with tags sewn into or glued onto those items—1.6 million of which are located at Disney World.

Since the RFID system's installation last year, Pagliuca says, "We've gained substantial savings—above a million dollars."

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