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Item-level Idealist

Joseph Andraski saw the value of RFID in retail and worked energetically to promote its adoption.
By Mark Roberti
Jun 18, 2014

The Special Achievement Award was conceived to honor those who have made a significant contribution to the radio frequency identification industry, through the development of standards or education of businesspeople about the technology's value or in some other way. Joseph Andraski, this year's recipient, has probably done more to promote the use of RFID at the item level—in retail, specifically—than anyone else.

Andraski was president and CEO of the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association, known simply as VICS, from 2004 to 2012. VICS was founded in 1986, and he was elected to run the organization after a 25-year career with Nabisco as VP of supply-chain management. Andraski understood supply-chain issues, and he used that knowledge at VICS, where he led an effort called Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment. Its goal was to foster cooperation between retailers and suppliers to reduce out-of-stocks and increase supply-chain efficiencies.

Joseph Andraski
In 2008, VICS and GS1 funded research at the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center (now overseen by Auburn University) to determine the value of RFID for managing inventory of clothing items in stores. A study at Dillard's stores found that RFID could boost inventory accuracy from roughly 65 percent to better than 95 percent.

Another study, at Bloomingdale's, supported the earlier findings. In 2010, Andraski led the formation of the VICS Item-Level RFID Initiative (VILRI), supported by Dillard's, Macy's, Walmart and other retailers, as well as some of their leading suppliers. The VILRI worked to promote adoption of RFID in retail and provide guidelines for the way the EPC Gen 2 standard should be used, so practices would be compatible among supply-chain members. It addressed questions that needed to be answered for RFID to gain widespread acceptance in retail, such as whether tags would be embedded in existing clothing labels or added in separate labels, and what data would be on the tags.

These efforts encouraged more retailers to begin using RFID technology in their operations and speeded the pace of adoption. In October 2012, VICS merged with GS1 US. Andraski left the organization and the initiative was put under the purview of GS1 US.

In a statement announcing Andraski's departure, Peter Longo, co-chairman of VICS and president of logistics and operations at Macy's, said Andraski had "guided VICS through a series of significant developments in key business areas like RFID, data synchronization, retail out-of-stocks, floor-ready merchandise, logistics and Collaborative Planning, Forecasting & Replenishment."

Andraski continues to write articles for magazines and speak at events, promoting the value of RFID in retail. There is no doubt his leadership, energy and enthusiasm has helped advance the adoption of item-level RFID in retail.

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