Category Archives: Supply Chain

RFID Growing Too Big for Its Britches?

RFID Growth Spurt Leads to Tech Shortages.

We’ve been talking about the growth and ROI benefits of item-level RFID, particularly in retail.

Supply Chain Digest reports that WalMart’s new apparel tagging program has helped lead to a supply drop in RFID EPC Gen 2 inlays, and that mobile RFID readers are now also in short supply. Why so? Lots of investment in RFID initiatives, including WalMart’s recent order for 20,000 Motorola mobile RFID readers, combined with “supply constraints that have lasted for months in basic electrical components that have cause delivery problems in a wide number of high tech gear, including mobile devices.”

In fact, Supply Chain Digest says that analysts at a major financial investment firm are predicting 300 percent market growth in RFID asset management for 2011.

Do you expect to join that growth, and invest in RFID for asset management and inventory visibility in the next year?

Read the Supply Chain Digest article.

See more about RFID printing/encoding here, where you can find resources such as our white paper “Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.”


How Efficient Is Your DSD?

Over 4,000 industry professionals are expected to attend Canada’s National Bakery Showcase 2010 in Toronto next week. Aside from the latest in proof & bake ovens and thaw & serve products, baking and baking supply companies of all types and sizes will be looking for ways mobility technology can deliver better efficiency to their enterprise. The impact is especially strong for route accounting organizations, where mobile workers frequently interact with customers. Fact is, accuracy and productivity lead to profitability in direct store deliv ery (DSD) and route accounting operations.

In the grocery channel alone, DSD represents 24 percent of unit sales and 52 percent of retail profits1. Revenue and cash flow improve measurably if DSD sales representatives make just one more stop per day. Reducing invoice and inventory errors also reduces operating expenses by saving time for mobile and admin istrative staff, and by improving inventory availability. Some of the challenges for the industry include:

• There are discrepancies on 10.5 percent of DSD invoices issued to small-format retailers, and 15.4 percent to supermarkets and other large-format stores.

• The average out-of-stock rate for DSD items is 7.4 percent, but jumps to 13.1 percent for promotional items.

• Out-of-stocks result in $6 billion in lost sales annually.

• The average supermarket can reduce DSD out-of-stocks by 2.9 percent and increase annual revenue by $75,000.

• Automated check-in processes can reduce DSD receiving time by 60 percent.

• Efficient DSD suppliers spend 13.8 fewer minutes for each delivery to large-format stores and spend nearly twice as much time on merchandising than inefficient suppliers.

Automating DSD operations is a proven practice to help solve these problems and gain the ensuing produc tivity and profitability benefits. Mobile computing applications can help prevent order-entry errors and assist DSD staff in managing inventory more accurately and efficiently. Many companies are using batch handheld computers and DEX connectivity, but in today’s world, this is not enough to provide sustainable operational and competitive advantages.

You can see the Zebra white paper on improving DSD and route account effectiveness here.

Zebra will jointly exhibit at this event with Motorola displaying a wide variety of solutions to optimize bakery process efficiency in production, operations, and product delivery.  At this event, the two companies will be exhibiting mobile technology solutions to support the market’s direct store delivery and other related activities.

If you are at the show, stop by booth #’s 1011 and 1013 to see the Zebra and Motorola joint solutions.

QR Codes Coming to a Shelf Label Near You?

Jeff Weidauer of Vestcom International proposed an interesting idea in his online RIS News article: using QR codes on shelf labels.

A QR code—a type of bar code that anyone can scan using a smart phone and a free app—directs the phone to a Web site or other Web content. While manufacturers will likely be adding QR codes to product packaging as the technology catches on, Jeff suggests forward-thinking retailers seize upon the possibilities now, and apply QR codes to the shelf edge as part of their mobile strategy. Just think how shelf-edge QR codes could instantly provide shoppers with coupons or relevant information such as country of origin, recipes, and the like.

 Actually executing the idea could be relatively easy. Using a QR-capable mobile bar code printer like Zebra’s QL 320 Plus™ model—the mobile printer your store may already use to save time and labor through on-demand, in-aisle, accurate shelf labeling—would be a natural fit for your QR code labeling as well. And it would make it easy to swap out shelf labels with new information based on real-time data available through your wireless network. This white paper can tell you more about the potential ROI available through mobile wireless labeling.

Mobile Shelf Labeling

Read Jeff’s complete article here on And for a fun look at another interesting (albeit unrelated) application for QR codes, check out this recent Shelf Talker post.

Would you consider adding QR codes to your shelf labels? What other applications for QR codes do you see in retail?

RFID Delivers Real Results for Retailers

All of us have experienced frustration when we cannot find an item we are looking for at our favorite store. Not only does the store lose the sale, we the consumer lose faith in the store. This stock-out scenario plays out daily, costing retailers millions in lost revenue and missed opportunities for building customer loyalty. This is why best-in-class apparel, footwear, and accessories retailers are turning to item-level RFID tagging to:

  • Streamline promotional tracking
  • Improve inventory accuracy
  • Ensure on-shelf availability
  • Prevent theft
  • Lift sales

Until recently, most RFID uses focused on pallet and case-level tracking. Instead, item-level tagging reaches all the way to the consumer. Today, major retailers are rolling out item-level RFID systems across the nation at an accelerating rate. In fact, retailers implementing tracing technologies know that they can boost inventory accuracy from 65-98 percent, which leads to more sales. Some retailers are realizing 99.9 percent inventory accuracy, a 50 percent reduction of in-store labor requirements, and a 15 percent lift in sales.

Here’s how it works. As the retailer receives products, an RFID reader automatically scans each item in the packing material, updates the retailer’s computer system, which then verifies product type and quantity. Employees stock the items in the appropriate locations. Scanners in the store track the item’s purchase, or if the item leaves the store without the shopper paying for it. Real-time tracking reveals if shoppers or employees misplace items in the store. This enhanced visibility allows the retailer to reduce stock-outs, boost the shopping experience, and increase sales. In addition, RFID-based electronic article surveillance (EAS) tagging can provide the retailer loss-prevention intelligence regarding what item left the store, and when the theft took place.

Not only does item-level RFID enable precise inventory management, store execution is better, and customers can shop and find the product they want faster and easier. Plus, implementing traceability technologies can also improve overall supply chain efficiency by delivering better inventory control, faster processing, and faster turn rate on items that have seasonal- or style-dependent windows. Most important, RFID solutions scale easily as the retailer’s needs evolve. No doubt, precise inventory management offers a great way for a retailer to differentiate and authenticate their brand.

For more details about RFID in retail, take a look at this recent announcement in

Do you see opportunities in your retail enterprise to improve inventory accuracy through precise traceability?

Proof in the Pictures: Amazon’s New Way to Cut Product Returns and Resolve Disputes

E-commerce retailers can lose money, customer service time or disgruntled customers if their customers claim they didn’t receive the right order. While auto-ID technologies like bar coding work great for tracking shipments, Amazon has come up with a patented way to prove the correct order was packed to begin with, and quickly resolve disputes: Make a video of the package being filled. Get the full story.

 How much could you save by reducing your number of disputed orders?