2022 PRA Magazine Retailing Magazine 1st Quarter Edition - Page 15

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RFID is Finally within Reach for All Retailers

E-commerce is making it harder to manage inventory , but new technologies are offering some counterbalance .
By George Pepes , APAC Vertical Solutions Lead , Healthcare and Retail , Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific
Over the past two years , retailers have faced numerous lockdowns and restrictions . This has led to a surge in e-commerce activities and changed consumer expectations and the role of physical stores . Today , research has shown that 61 % of APAC consumers surveyed are shopping online at least weekly . In the Philippines , a full recovery in the consumer and retail sectors is expected to take place in 2022 , with conventional growth set to return in 2023 . That said , many retailers are not prepared for the pandemic surge demand , not to mention the rising popularity of internet and mobile shopping .
Nearly three-fourths of retail executives surveyed recently said they are under pressure to reduce the expenses of online orders , with just as many struggling to prevent out-of-stocks . According to Bill Inzeo , Global Retail Technology Strategist at Zebra Technologies , that ’ s because consumers are not afraid to walk – or click – away when retailers cannot offer what they want , when and how they want it .
The Recent Rush to Scale RFID
Historically , the barcode has been the hero solution when trying to increase visibility into inventory positioning and performance . It is widely utilized and can be scanned at every touchpoint in the retail fulfillment chain to report or verify the status of an item : the factory , warehouse , distribution center , store , and even a customer ’ s door , mailbox , or pickup locker . It can also be used in support of multiple business functions , including picking , packing , shipping , receiving , price checks , replenishment , cycle counts , and point of sale .
Retailers do not have to make large technology investments to leverage the barcode as a track and trace mechanism . Built-in scanners are now standard features of enterprise-grade mobile computers commonly used in retail store and warehouse operations . This makes it easy for associates to scan barcodes to check prices , confirm they have grabbed the right item for a customer , or report current on-shelf inventory .
However , barcode scanners are no longer the most efficient way to manage inventory , especially when stores and warehouses are short staffed or sales outpace restocks , which is almost every day now . If barcodes are on the bottom or back of packaging , associates must physically pick up items to scan them , which can be difficult . That is why radio frequency identification ( RFID ) technologies are seeing renewed interest from retailers .
There are several ways retailers can configure RFID systems to automatically read thousands of tagged items as they move from one point in the supply chain to the next – or as associates move from one
store department to the next . The combination of new read-to-cloud software and RFID sleds has made this advanced tracking technology accessible to all . Even small retailers still using pen and paper to document inventory movements will be able to read RFID tags as soon as they digitalize their processes , equip associates with the right mobile computers , and build a simple app to send RFID-captured updates to the cloud .
How RFID Sleds are Helping Retailers Avoid the Inventory Slide
It does not always make sense to install fixed RFID readers in retail stores to monitor shelf inventory . In many cases , handheld RFID readers will suffice , as associates can do a quick lap around the store to capture tag data . Yet , most associates will object to carrying two devices with them all day long , and the IT team is not going to be keen to add any more devices to its management list . That is why RFID sleds are such a brilliant – and simple – solution . They can automatically read thousands of RFID tags and , with a quick pull of the trigger , also act as a barcode scanner .
They are technically snap-and-go accessories that instantly transform associates ’ mobile devices into RFID readers . No wire harnesses or special user training sessions are required . Once an RFID sled is connected to a mobile computer , all an associate must do is point their device in the general direction of the inventory they want to count and pull the “ scan ” trigger . Data from more than 1,300 tags will immediately be pulled into the device and the inventory management system with which its synced . In less than 15 minutes , over a million different items can be accurately accounted for in stores , stockrooms , and warehouses . Without RFID , it could take hours or days to count or locate that much inventory – and the outcomes would not be as reliable .
Small , Incremental Changes Can Make Big Impacts
Simple solutions such as RFID sleds prove retailers do not necessarily need to make huge investments to increase inventory visibility , staff productivity , or customer satisfaction . They just need to add the right accessory to associates ’ mobile computers .
To learn more about RFID sled technology , click here .
About the Author :
George Pepes
APAC Vertical Solutions Lead , Healthcare and Retail , Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific