How Can I Add RFID to My Grocery Store?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsHow Can I Add RFID to My Grocery Store?
RFID Journal Staff asked 2 years ago

I want to have all items at my store RFID-tagged, but I cannot get source-tagging from my vendors or suppliers. Would it be feasible for me to have my staff tag all items with RFID before placing them on shelves? What challenges should I consider before contacting an RFID supplier for readers, printers and tags? I am OK with an extra 10 to 15 cents per item.

—Arjun

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Arjun,

It would be feasible, yes, but it would not necessarily ne an easy, simple process. You would obviously need to employ labor to do this, which would be an expense. You would require space in your back room to tag the products arriving at your store, and you would need a variety of tags. The least expensive tags would work fine on non-metal, RF-friendly goods, such as boxes of cereal or rolls of paper towels. You would need on-metal tags for all canned goods, as well as special tags for items with high water content.

The hardest part would be managing the association of each tag with a particular item. If you had a roll of tags with serialized IDs, you would need to make sure that each unique ID was associated with the item on which it was placed. There is software that would allow you to scan an existing bar code and associate a tag ID with that item.

So let’s say you received a box of Tide detergent with a standard GS1 bar code. You would have to read the bar code with a bar-code/RFID handheld reader, press a button on the handheld to confirm the right bar code was scanned, and then interrogate the RFID tag and press another button to associate the two.

The main challenge would be user error. Let’s say you received an order of Cheerios at the store, consisting of 20 boxes of regular Cheerios and 20 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios. The worker applying the tags might not scan each bar code individually. He or she might scan the same box of regular Cheerios 40 times to generate the RFID tags, then apply the tags. But the operator would not realize they were two different kinds of cereal.

So when you read the RFID tags, you would think you had 40 boxes of regular Cheerios and were out of Honey Nut Cheerios, which would not be the case. As a result, you’d end up ordering more Honey Nut Cheerios when you didn’t yet need them, and you would run out of regular Cheerios because you’d think you had 20 more boxes in stock than you actually had. This kind of user error is common when tagging takes place at a store, and represents the biggest challenge you’ll likely face.

There must be a very solid business case for using RFID to make the additional labor required for tagging, as well as the space allocated for tagging and the effort to avoid errors, worthwhile.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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