If so, how would I utilize the technology for this application?
There are many different ways in which a company could use radio frequency identification in the garment-production process. The right way would depend on your business processes and goals. I would start by asking what problems you have that RFID might solve. For example, are you struggling to manage piece parts that go into each garment? Are bundles of piece parts arriving late at sewing stations, causing production delays? Are items that are produced and put away taking too long to find? Are you shipping the wrong items to customers?
RFID can solve any and all of these issues. Esquel, a large shirt manufacturer in Hong Kong, tags bundles of cotton that are received and associates the tagged bundle with a serial number and data about the bundle in the database. This allows a worker to pick high-quality cotton when making high-quality shirts and avoids someone picking a bundle of lower-quality cotton. The company also tags bundles of piece parts so that they can be tracked as they travel from one sewing station to another or are shipped from one facility to another.
It’s easy to purchase software that will use a database of items being produced to generate unique ID numbers that can be associated with each item as it comes off the production line. A tag can be affixed to each garment. When it is put away in the warehouse, the worker can read the tags on the items using a handheld and then scan a bar code on a rack or shelf in the warehouse to indicate the locations where those items are being stored. When an order comes in, software can generate a pick list, as well as provide the locations of those items in the warehouse. Workers can then find those items and prepare them for shipping. The tags on all of the items can be read and the serial numbers checked again the pick order. If there is an extra or wrong item, or if an item is missing, the RFID system can alert employees to this problem, thereby ensuring that they ship the correct items every time.
I would advocate that you map out all of your processes and figure out where issues exist. Then you can ascertain how and where RFID can be used to improve efficiencies and determine a return on investment.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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