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RFID Warehouse-Management Systems for Apparel Retailers

It's time to automate your warehouses and distribution centers. Here's why—and how to do it.
By Bob Violino
Apr 19, 2015

Most apparel retailers that are using RFID to improve inventory management have been tagging items in their stores. As they tag more items—and more apparel retailers adopt RFID—the industry is moving toward tagging at the source of manufacture. It's more efficient, because manufacturers are already attaching price tags and/or care tags and labels to items. To facilitate source tagging, GS1 US's Item Level RFID workgroup has developed guidelines (see GS1 Expects Tagged-Item Performance Protocol Guideline to Boost RFID Adoption).

Of course, in between the manufacturing facilities and stores are warehouses and distribution centers. This means retailers have a great opportunity to get complete visibility into their supply chains—by RFID-enabling their warehouses and DCs. RFID warehouse-management systems (WMS) developed for apparel retailers can verify shipments received from the manufacturer and those shipped to stores. They can also improve efficiencies in put-away and picking. This would help retailers ensure they have specific goods on store shelves when customers want to buy that merchandise.

Illustration: iStockphoto
A more efficient warehouse or DC would also enable companies to implement omnichannel retailing—the ability to shop anytime, anywhere, in a store, on a mobile device, on a home computer or by phone. Many stores promoted omnichannel shopping for the 2014 holiday season, but they were unable to deliver on their promise because they didn't know where specific merchandise was or how much inventory they had.

"Holiday 2014 was a test of retailers' omnichannel competence, and many shoppers were disappointed," says Su Doyle, head of RFID industry programs at OATSystems, a division Checkpoint Systems. "Stores threw extra labor, inventory and expedited shipping into the mix, since they didn't have time to change inefficient processes.

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