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Communication Is the Key to Success

Avery Dennison RBIS' James Stafford discusses the challenges of deploying RFID in retail food, and how to meet those challenges.
By Barb Freda
Dec 18, 2016

James Stafford joined Avery Dennison Retail Business Information Systems (RBIS) in 2007 as the company's head of RFID adoption. He has been instrumental in helping Marks & Spencer implement RFID in all its stores. Since 2015, Stafford has been RBIS' global head of food RFID development, helping food retailers use the technology to track totes in the supply chain and perishable items in stores (see Solutions for Retail and Transportation: Reducing Food Waste in Groceries). Here, he discusses the unique challenges of deploying RFID in the retail food market—and what end users can do to ensure a successful project.

RFID Journal: Why should food retailers consider RFID? What are some of the complexities of the food industry that make rolling out an RFID solution so challenging?

James Stafford
James Stafford: What is different from the apparel retail industry is the wide variety of sell-by dates on food. And, of course, most customers buy the latest sell-by date first. The management of that stock with different date codes is a big task. Retailers must get it right, selling customers the freshest product—and, of course, the law penalizes retailers if they get it wrong.

The way the industry works now is that it uses a lot of people to try to solve the problem of stock management, but there is usually a compromise between speed and accuracy. RFID offers the opportunity to achieve both accuracy and speed—and to reduce the no-value-added labor in the store. All of that benefits the stores, with increased margins and reduced food waste.

RFID Journal: What are you hearing from potential clients in regard to using RFID as a stock-management solution?

Stafford: Retailers and brand owners already using RFID on the apparel side of their business have invested the capital and seen the benefits, so those clients definitely have a high level of interest in exploring this for food moving forward.

After that, there are two categories of clients: There are those who are very interested in experimenting and using new technology—and, therefore, have an open-minded approach and think much more about the business case and not just the price. Then, there are those who say this is interesting but are not willing to spend the money to implement RFID.

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