RFID Delivers Speed and Accuracy for Apparel Retailers

During his presentation at RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2009, Bill Hardgrave presented new information comparing radio frequency identification and bar codes in apparel retail stores.
Published: October 20, 2009

Bill Hardgrave, the director of the University of Arkansas’ RFID Research Center, delivered a presentation yesterday at RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2009, entitled “How Retailers Benefit From Using RFID to Improve Inventory Accuracy.”

Hardgrave’s presentation included some new information, based on recent research conducted by his group comparing scanning items with bar codes and RFID. He said:

• On average, it takes 60 man-hours to scan 30,000 bar codes, whereas it takes 8 hours with RFID to accomplish the same task.

• The recorded accuracy rate with bar codes was 85 percent, whereas the accuracy rate with RFID was 99 percent.

“This is one of those rare times when you can reduce labor costs and improve accuracy,” Hardgrave told attendees. “Usually, there is a trade-off between labor and accuracy. You can spend more on labor and get greater inventory accuracy. With RFID, you can spend less on labor and become more accurate.”

RFID is approximately 20 times faster than bar codes, Hardgrave indicated. For example, he said, “That means Dillard’s currently takes inventory twice a year. For the same cost, it could take inventory once a week using RFID.”

Hardgrave showed one slide that I found particularly interesting: a line graph illustrating that the number of items that could be scanned with a bar-code scanner decreased fairly dramatically over time. A person might scan 2,000 items per hour in the first hour, the graph indicated, but only 1,000 after several hours, due to fatigue and loss of concentration. RFID also showed a decrease in efficiency, Hardgrave said—but the decline was much less severe, because the number of hours required was so much less.

It’s no surprise that a growing number of apparel retailers are getting excited about utilizing RFID to manage inventory.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.