by Danika Manchester, FineLine Technologies
Everyone knows the importance of quality in price ticketing. Merchandise that is not ticketed correctly cannot be processed efficiently through the supply chain, including potential delays and lost sales at POS. Quality issues are generally visible – the style description, size, or color do not match the merchandise, the price is not correct, or the barcode is not large enough or printed with enough quality to scan. Because these types of errors can be visually monitored, issues with the barcoded price ticket can be addressed early in the supply chain where errors are more cost effective to correct, either at the factory or distribution center. Even if the issue is not found until it hits the store floor, a replacement ticket can be printed onsite prior to sale.
Many retailers are now realizing the benefits of RFID. Retailers are expanding past pilot programs by adding merchandise categories, stores, and retail divisions to increase their sales by improving their inventory accuracy and subsequently the replenishment of merchandise to their store shelves. Software providers have designed solutions not only for inventory management but to improve customer satisfaction by providing seamless shopping journeys across multiple sales channels and data analytics of shopper and merchandise movement within stores. Retailers are investing a significant amount of money into these solutions, dependent in part on RFID technology, and that RFID technology is dependent on merchandise being correctly tagged with RFID inlays.
The inclusion of RFID inlays adds not only cost but also complexity to the ticketing process. The EPC number must be unique, correctly encoded onto the RFID inlay, and match the printed data. Brands that have sourced tickets from multiple service bureaus and also printed within their factories will need to determine a process to ensure that merchandise that requires RFID technology is correctly tagged with unique EPC regardless of the source of the ticket. MCS compliant systems ensure unique numbers by utilizing the self-contained, factory programmed and permanently locked unique serial number embedded within the Tag Identifier (TID) memory of each IC.
RFID ticketing complexity extends into the quality assurance of the ticket as well. Typical quality issues include bad tags, EPC-UPC mismatch, using an inlay not approved by the Retailer or not approved for the specific product category, duplicate EPC numbering, and interference with metal either on the brand tag or on the merchandise itself.
Because the EPC encoded cannot be visually checked, additional equipment is required – a UHF RFID reader – which can be purchased as an add-on to smart phones or tablets. These devices generally only display the number encoded and connections to database or online solutions must be set up in order to check that the EPC is correct, unique, and round rock licensed.
With RFID, the price ticket is leveraged for multiple solutions at the retailer – inventory control, movement analysis, cross selling, omni-channel support, etc. – so quality assurance is more important than ever. A brand's transition to providing RFID ticketed merchandise must include the review and update of ticketing quality assurance programs to prevent chargebacks as well as the costly reprinting of tickets or reticketing of merchandise. Quality Assurance procedures should include tag read, quality print, match of printed UPC and encoded EPC, and confirmation that the included inlay is approved by the retailer for the product category in question.
Danika Manchester is the RFID Product Manager for FineLine Technologies. She has worked in retail barcode and RFID price ticketing for 15 years managing product design, production, operations, special projects, and business development. FineLine Technologies provides barcode and RFID ticketing solutions for retailers, vendors, and manufacturers. Their customary speed, service, and innovation are unparalleled. RFID solutions include As You Like It branded integrated tags and QCTrak™, the mobile RFID quality assurance solution. For more information about FineLine, please visit www.finelinetech.com or contact them at 800-500-8687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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