Footwear Moves Toward Traceability in Brazil

Tests of RFID usage are currently under way in that nation, with the support of Ceitec and several recognized brands in the footwear sector.
Published: February 11, 2019

Several companies in the footwear sector have been discussing solutions for logistics automation, with a view toward improving the traceability and integration of the production chain through the use of radio frequency identification technologies. The initiative was launched by Abicalçados (the Brazilian Association of Shoe Industries), which created the Sola Project (the Automated Logistics Operations System). Through this initiative, GS1 standards (bar code or RFID) and good practices can help to accelerate the movement of merchandise and commercial transactions in order to avoid piracy, cargo theft and other problems faced by the fashion sector.

Among the companies that are part of the steering committee are such recognized brands in the footwear segment as Via Marte, Beira Rio, Grendene, Usaflex, Piccadilly, Bibi, Dass Group, Bebecê, Pegada, Klin and Jorge Bischoff.

A shoe assembly line

The subject of traceability will be highlighted at this month’s FIMEC machine and component trade fair, which brings together the entire Brazilian footwear industry and receives visitors from Latin America. The event will be attended by the companies noted above, as well as by partners like Brazilian RFID chip maker Ceitec. At that time, says Igor Hoelscher, a consultant on the Sola Project, “We will apply software and hardware to the concepts of automation, complying with the principles of Industry 4.0, as well as demonstrating the use of RFID in the handling of goods.”

According to Hoelscher, a shoe factory will be set up at the event, known as Fábrica Conceito, with production of around two thousand pairs of Arezzo and Kildare footwear. “Thus,” he explains, “the footwear sector will show what it has developed in information technology. This could spread the potential of the sector to invest in automation, as well as some applications in RFID to accelerate internal movement and transportation.”

With Ceitec’s support, Hoelscher says, “We already have a pilot running on Via Marte, a company that has led technology applications in this sector.” For Ceitec, he notes, investments in the footwear industry are positive and in line with the future of industrial processes and the distribution of goods. According to Tadeu Lorenzi, Ceitec’s business director, the partnership with Abicalçados and Via Marte has brought excellent results, which attendees will be able to view throughout the three-day trade fair.

“One of the key differentiators of Ceitec is to offer customers highly qualified professionals who can provide technical support throughout an operation’s implementation,” Lorenzi states. “The role of Ceitec surpasses that of being a simple supplier, since it puts at the customer’s disposal its specialized know-how, which boosts our joint success. From the point of view of market positioning, Ceitec’s products are internationally certified, comparable to those of any foreign manufacturer, and have competitive prices. “

According to the Sola Project, a serial number is the best way for shoe companies to have more precise control of their official products, not only in their internal organization, but with applications outside their company, such as logistics traceability to combat theft, counterfeiting and piracy. Since each serial number is unique, it can identify products in an exclusive way. “Just as each person has an ID,” Hoelscher indicates, “in Brazil, each unit of a product can have its uniqueness, and be unique and unequivocal, even among several identical products.”

The fashion industry is still working toward finding a traceability solution, the Sola Project reports. “Companies practice true juggling,” Hoelscher says, “in an attempt to brand their official products to prevent counterfeiting and piracy—often a burdensome systematic scheme—and are then mocked by those who engage in criminal activity in commerce.”

The Sola Project foresees the use of the serial number in several applications for the footwear sector. “In marketing, a consumer can register their official product for loyalty programs, receive promotions and offers according to their profile, and receive personalized service quickly and efficiently, strengthening the relationship with the brand,” Hoelscher explains.

“Within your business,” Hoelscher adds, “you can control, with complete traceability and precision, the quantity that is produced, sold, separated or inventoried in real time, impacting business in a global way. When goods are counted twice, control is very firm, avoiding deviations between what is physically accomplished and what is recorded in computer programs—physical vs. virtual world.”

A critical point that generates billions of dollars in losses for the fashion industry is counterfeiting and piracy. “If there is total control of products that have been sold via traceability, it can easily be validated whether they are official or counterfeit,” Hoelscher states. For shoe entrepreneurs, he says, to the extent that the serialization of products is widespread, the market will self-regulate, and fraudulent and criminal activities will be mitigated. In addition, cargo theft can be reduced, since the system can track stolen goods. In short, counterfeiting, piracy and theft can be tackled and resolved via traceability.

Identification, process and EDI pillars disseminated by the Sola Project, along with the evolution of serialization in a unique and unequivocal manner, should allow a solid structure for future applications of advanced manufacturing or Industry 4.0, Hoelscher predicts, as well as for the Internet of Things. “Parallel to discussions about this industrial revolution,” he says, “it is essential to adopt a sustainable database of identification, process and data sharing to integrate the productive chain. It is time to do the homework that is lacking in the footwear industry, in order to maintain competitiveness.”