Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


Mobile & Wireless: RFID - the comeback kid?

Retailers and solution providers are once again talking about the Internet of Things.
By Bob Trebilcock, Editor at Large
May 22, 2013

The Internet Of Things. The last time I remember hearing that phrase, Mariah Carey had the best-selling CD. Heck, people were still buying CD’s. It was all part of the demand-driven supply chain. The idea was that every pallet, case and individual can of Coke would be tagged with an RFID chip that could be tracked in real time as the units moved through the supply chain. That information could be posted to a database accessible over the Internet. Each time you or I bought a can of soda from a vending machine, a demand signal would go back to the bottler to create a replenishment order.

We all know how that worked out. Or do we? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had conversations with Phil Gerskovich, a senior vice president of new growth platforms at Zebra Technologies and Bill Connell, senior vice president for logistics and operations at Macy’s. It seems that the Internet Of Things is back in vogue, even if Mariah Carey, or CD’s, are not.

First Macy’s. I’m writing a feature article about the department store retailer’s RFID project for our June issue, but here’s a preview. While the focus of retail initiatives a decade ago was on reading cases and pallets as they passed through an RFID portal at the receiving dock, Macy’s has brought the technology into the retail store. It is tagging its perennial inventory – the items that are always kept in stock and are regularly replenished, like shoe samples, denim, men’s basics and women’s intimate apparel. RFID allows store personnel to take inventory on a regular basis and to make certain the right stock and right sizes are represented on the store shelves. Since launching the program, inventory accuracy of tagged items has improved from the mid-60’s% to about 95% or better. The benefit is in top-line sales. “What I can say is that the deployment has met our expectations and in some instances exceeded them,” is the way Connell put it.

Gerskovich is seeing similar strategies among Zebra’s customers, and not just retail customers. Note: to the best of my knowledge, Zebra is not involved in Macy’s initiative.

“The original term was coined in the context of having objects that could communicate information using passive RFID,” Gerskovich told me. “Today, the phrase is used in a much broader sense. We’re seeing all kinds of smart devices that can interact in the Internet. Yes, retailers are tagging individual items in their stores. But we’re also talking about smart appliances, smart thermostats and even smart cars. In addition to RFID tags, we are talking about sensors, real-time locating systems and GPS that are all capable of connecting to the Internet and communicating with the broader world. We believe they’ll create smarter end-to-end supply chains.”

The Internet Of Things is still not quite a reality. Macy’s isn’t trying to tag every item it sells. Nor, at this point, has it extended the initiative to warehouse processes. But having learned the lessons of the original retail initiatives of a decade ago, it seems the Internet Of Things is far closer today than ever.

About the Author

image
Bob Trebilcock
Editor at Large

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484 and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Transportation stakeholders reliant on North Carolina’s major seaports are welcoming news this week, which outlines plans to enhance the intermodal and cold chain network in the region.

The index ISM uses to measure non-manufacturing growth—known as the NMI—was 56.9 in February, which was 0.2 percent ahead of January and also 0.1 percent ahead of the 12-month average of 56.8. Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector has grown for the last 61 months, according to ISM.

Non asset-based third-party logistics (3PL) services and logistics technology services provider Transplace said today that Brooks Bentz has joined the company in a newly-created role as president of Transplace Consulting in conjunction with the launch of the company’s new North American consulting services practice.

The advent of e-commerce continues to grow and gain increased traction over time. The many ways for consumers to order and purchase goods online continues to expand and leads to various subsequent byproducts of online purchases, including shopping through multiple channels, and delivery and payment options, among other things. These types of topics serve as the thesis in the second annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Global Study issued this week by UPS and comScore Inc.

A major highlight of CEVA’s fourth quarter performance was its new business wins, which were up 14 percent for all of 2014, with Freight Management wins up 14 percent, and Ocean Freight and Air Freight wins up 30 percent and 14 percent, respectively, while Contract Logistics wins were up 2 percent.

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA