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A Gem of a Solution

RFID providers have developed complete inventory-management systems for monitoring jewelry items in the supply chain and in retail stores.
By Minda Zetlin
Sep 30, 2013

In some industries, making the case that radio frequency identification can deliver a return on investment takes careful calculation. In the jewelry industry, the financial benefits are quite clear. Gem dealers and jewelry-store retailers must manually track thousands of small, high-value items daily, a time-consuming and error-prone process. RFID providers have developed complete solutions—with tags, readers and software designed for monitoring gems and jewelry—that automate the process, reducing the amount of time required to take inventory, eliminating shrinkage and freeing up salespeople to help customers.

Moreover, these jewelry inventory-management solutions are delivering a fast ROI. In 2012, for example, Borsheims, a Berkshire Hathaway-owned jewelry retailer in Omaha, Neb., deployed the ZeroShrink RFID solution from TJS. The system has already paid for itself, says CFO Erin Limas (see RFID Eliminates Shrinkage at Borsheims' Jewelry Store). In 2011, the Steinmetz Diamond Group, based in Geneva, began using a SpaceCode solution to track, manage and secure tiny, highly valuable gemstones. The system began paying benefits almost as soon as it was taken live, says CFO Pavlo Protopapa (see A Diamond Ping).

With the ZeroShrink RFID solution from TJS, an employee can quickly inventory tagged items by passing a handheld reader over jewelry displays.
A jewelry retailer or gem dealer that has never had an item misplaced, lost or stolen can benefit from RFID's labor savings, says Michael Liard, VP of auto-ID at VDC Research. "A jewelry store has to take inventory at least once a day, and may do it several times a day," he says. "Doing that in a manual fashion is time-consuming and takes employees away from other tasks." With RFID, an employee can quickly inventory tagged items by passing a wand or handheld reader over jewelry displays. Shelf-mounted readers in display or storage units can provide inventory information on demand. "Jewelry retailers are very interested in that," he adds.

Some providers offer RFID-enabled pads or trays that salespeople can use to present an item to a customer. Some of these readers come with screens that can display information about the item.

TrachTech Systems' box reader can identify jewelry items that are packed on trays or in bins.
Inventory management is one of what Liard calls the "layers" of value proposition for RFID in the jewelry industry—the many ways in which RFID can deliver an ROI. Another layer, he says, is access control. "Many times, display cases are individually locked for added security. With RFID, you can equip each employee with an access-control card that unlocks the case, so he or she can open it without having to dig out one of 10 keys for 10 cases." That also lets management see how often employees are accessing cases, and who opened which case last. "There's an additional level of security," he says.

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