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Quality in RFID

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 14, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, January 13, 2016

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 support@finelinetech.com.

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Tags:  RFID 

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Not Just for Retailers: More Ways RFID Can Benefit Retail Brand Owners

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 19, 2015
Updated: Saturday, November 14, 2015

by Sheldon R. Reich, CYBRA Corporation


As stated in Not Just for Retailers, sooner or later you'll be supplying RFID-tagged merchandise to your retail customers who are seeing strong benefits with RFID from the DC to the back room and selling floor. Here are more ways that every RBO (Retail Brand Owner) can also benefit from RFID and can turn the cost of an EPC (Electronic Product Code) retail compliance mandate into a supply chain enhancing investment.

At the recent RVCF Fall Conference in Scottsdale, a number of leading retailers and brand owners we met with discussed their plans for implementing RFID. The retailers are adding product categories and rapidly expanding their RFID compliance mandates. In short, it's full speed ahead.

Some brand owners are shipping goods with EPC-compliant RFID tags, but not taking advantage of any of the benefits the technology offers. An even larger number of brand owners came to our booth in the exhibit hall with RFID questions and concerns such as "How do we begin?" and "How do we justify the cost of investing in RFID infrastructure?"

ROI Begins with Reducing Chargebacks
To help customers quantify the ROI (Return on Investment) of RFID, we asked the brand representatives if they would share the size of the chargebacks they are assessed. We were amazed at the costs these brands are shouldering. The chargebacks ranged from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars for the largest brand owners. There are lots of reasons shipments are charged back – merchandising issues, compliance marking errors, etc. – but packing and shipment errors are easily addressed with RFID technology and anything the brand can do to lower the chargebacks directly impacts the bottom line. Just by reducing chargebacks alone, an RFID system will quickly pay for itself.

Start with a Pilot then Scale
If only a portion of your stock needs to be tagged, you can begin by tagging merchandise in your DC. Typically this is done at a VAS (Value Added Station). What is the equipment required? An RFID printer can print and encode EPC labels to affix to those products shipping to the mandating customer. Add a mobile computer with RFID and you can start to take advantage of such labor savers as RFID cycle counting and RFID pack and ship validation. This will give you a taste of the benefits of RFID. As you tag more and more merchandise an investment in fixed RFID infrastructure such as dock door portals and RFID-enabled MHE (Material Handling Equipment) will give you even more bang for the buck. As you roll out more RFID enabled processes, the investment made to comply with your customer mandates will immediately begin to reduce chargebacks, and lower labor costs as you process more shipments with more accuracy in less time.

The Big Four
As noted in our September article, there are four areas that RFID will give you the greatest impact. Here's how we've helped brand owners use RFID to reduce their supply chain costs:

Receiving – For one customer whose goods are tagged at source, fixed RFID readers on inbound conveyors read the tags of every single item in the carton. The system compares the ASN (Advanced Ship Notice) from the factory and confirms that each carton contains exactly what was ordered. This validation is an audit of every single carton arriving from overseas and it happens in real time without any misreads and without slowing down the receiving line.

Cycle Counting – There's no need to shut the DC for a few days to conduct physical inventory. A small team armed with mobile RFID readers can count inventory in a fraction of the time compared to traditional barcode based methods. Because it is easier and faster to count, you can cycle count more often with greater accuracy.

Packing – By adding fixed RFID readers at each pack station, orders are validated in real time, the packing process is faster with the reduction in product handling and hand barcode scanning, and errors are reduced to zero as operators can be signaled instantly if the wrong item is placed in the carton.

Shipping – By investing in RFID portals at outbound dock doors, you can validate each carton loaded into an outbound trailer and confirm it is going on the right truck. RFID validation can automatically "close" a shipment and act as a trigger for generating an EPOD (Electronic Proof of Delivery) record.

By investing in robust RFID software and infrastructure additional benefits can be reaped. For example, we are helping brand owners track preproduction samples and molds, job tickets and employee applications, reusable pallets and trolleys, and IT assets. Once installed, you'll find dozens of processes that can be quickly and easily enhanced using RFID.

By putting RFID to work inside your four walls, you will reduce the costs of receiving, counting, packing, and shipping goods, and you will be able to pay for the RFID investment with a major reduction in chargebacks.


Sheldon R. Reich is Chief Solution Architect for CYBRA Corporation, the developer of EdgeMagic RFID Platform Software, and MarkMagic Barcode Label, E-Forms and Report Writing software. Sheldon has significant technical knowledge of Auto ID system design, integration, and troubleshooting on a wide range of platforms and has helped hundreds of companies implement Auto-ID systems since 1989. CYBRA and Jamison RFID, the leading manufacturer of RFID portals, are the RFID Sponsors and will be demonstrating their field-proven retail supply chain hardware and software at the RVCF Annual Fall Conference November 8-11 at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Sheldon can be reached at sreich@cybra.com or 914-963-6600 ext. 209. Learn more about CYBRA and Jamison RFID at: www.cybra.com and www.jamisonrfid.com

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Tags:  Audit  Item Level Tagging  Order Accuracy  RFID 

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RFID Tagging: Retailing's Win-Win

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, October 6, 2015

by Carol Weidner, eZCom Software


Many have predicted RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tagging, or automatic identification and tracking through electromagnetic fields, as key to the future of retailing. With major retailers' completion of highly successful pilot programs, that future has arrived. Although any new technology has its challenges, RFID promises significant advantages in an omni-channel landscape – and benefits for both retailers and suppliers.

Where We Are and What's Next
RFID made retail headlines in 2003 when Walmart pioneered its adoption on the pallet and case level. The technology held great promise and Walmart's mandate aimed at increasing supply chain efficiency. However, by 2007 the retailer had largely dialed back from this strategy, concluding that EDI and barcoding had created a streamlined receiving and distribution environment and that RFID – at least in this context – was a "solution in search of a problem."1

Though perhaps an unexpected outcome, Walmart's forward-thinking paved the way for apparel and general merchandise retailers' experimentation with RFID at the item-level. Although recession-related challenges and some patent issues caused delays, initial trials delivered significant sales increases. Today, Macy's/Bloomingdale's, Hudson's Bay/Lord & Taylor, Saks, Target and others have seen extremely promising results in frequently replenished sectors such as denim, lingerie, and men's dress shirts; have expanded RFID programs to include seasonal fashion items with positive results; and have announced accelerated timetables for full rollouts throughout their stores. A 2012 study conducted by the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative, which interviewed 116 large size retailers, suppliers, wholesale firms and vertical retailers, indicated the industry has reached a "tipping point" with RFID adoption.2 Survey findings showed 50% of retailers had already piloted RFID programs (many more than had publically discussed their activities), and suggested most retailers would utilize RFID by the end of 2016.3 The GS1 US Standards Report of March 2015 reported 57% of US retailers as implementing item-level RFID by 4Q 2014, and an additional 21% planning to implement it over the following 13-24 months.4

What's in It for Retailers
Item-level RFID adoption offers clear benefits to retailers – especially to traditional retailers striving to 1) give customers a seamless omni-channel experience and, 2) compete with e-tailers. Proven advantages include greater inventory accuracy, improved point-of-sale, decreased out-of-stocks, improved loss detection, higher conversion, enhanced stock conversion reporting, increased full price sales and expedited returns.

RFID enables the scanning of up to 15,000 pieces of merchandise per hour, as opposed to 300 items per hour using a barcode scanner. This makes it possible for stores to conduct multiple inventory counts per year as opposed to the traditional practice of taking one inventory count per year, and to maintain inventory accuracy in the high 90th percentiles.5 Such frequent counts allow for the correct placement of items in the right range of sizes, colors and styles on the selling floor – thereby boosting sales numbers in a particular store. They also support the key omni-channel initiative of integrating stores, internet, and mobile devices so that store associates at any single location may sell merchandise from all store locations and online fulfillment centers for shipment to customers' doors.

"Pick to the last unit" efforts represent a key RFID opportunity for all retailers within the greater omni-channel initiative. Typically, retailers don't expose the last item of a SKU to online sales because they don't have enough confidence in inventory to locate the item, and to locate it quickly. A recent Macy's analysis indicated that last units in stores represent 15-20% of total inventory – a massive amount of budget traditionally marked down or not sold – which RFID can instead convert to full price sales.6

Macy's also recently expanded its RFID efforts, which it had previously focused on frequently-replenished items, to include fashion items. Fashion items have a short window of sales opportunity – they stay on the floor only 8-10 weeks before markdowns occur. Because of this, inventory accuracy can play a key role. Staff must replenish items on the floor from the stockroom as soon as depletion occurs, and maximize timely multi-channel sales opportunities through frequent and accurate inventory counts. Macy's fashion pilot programs resulted in a sales lift of tagged items for the retailer as well as improved gross margins and a reduction in the quantity of items requiring markdowns.7

What's in It for Suppliers
At first glance, RFID item-level tagging might seem like yet another compliance hurdle for suppliers to jump – and a high one at that, both in effort and cost. A closer look, though, suggests a more optimistic scenario.

GS1 US's Item Level RFID workgroup has developed a standardized best practice guideline called the Tagged Item Performance Protocol (TIPP) to help the retail industry consistently define, test and verify the performance level of Electronic Product Code (EPC)-enabled RFID tags. Prior to this development, retailers set their own expectations for tag inlays, requiring suppliers to provide different solutions for different customers. TIPP has set a standard that alleviates this burden on suppliers, but still allows for flexibility.8 Retailers can set performance levels for specific groups of items and suppliers have various options for how they choose to meet those levels.

In addition, although cost per tag remains a concern, prices have dropped significantly over the past five years (especially for larger quantities) – a trend that will likely continue.3

Plus, early adopters have reported upsides. In the recent GS1 survey, suppliers cited multiple benefits from RFID tagging.4 These included reinforcing authenticity, decreasing inspection costs, reducing shrinkage and enhancing logistics accuracy. And better retailer numbers due to heightened inventory visibility, more full price sales and overall omni-channel optimization add up to financial gains for suppliers, too.8

At the January 2015 NRF conference, Ken Duane, CEO of Heritage Brands and North America Wholesale, PVH Corp (manufacturer of the Calvin Klein, Van Heusen, and Tommy Hilfiger brands – among others), described his own experience with RFID tagging and confirmed suppliers should take a positive long-term view. Although he admitted initially worrying about costs per tag, especially in light of his company's extremely high volume, the benefits of RFID adoption have more than defrayed PVH's expenditure. Improved margins and dramatic increase in full price sales – combined with on-time delivery, elimination of out-of-stocks, better sales projection, and heightened ability to service customers – have made his company's RFID experience a win-win.

[1] http://bobmorris.biz/can-rfid-save-brick-and-mortar-retailers-after-all
[2] http://www.vilri.org/docs/Accenture_VILRI_Item-level-RFID.PDF
[3] http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?9168/
[4] http://www.gs1us.org/about-gs1-us/media-center/press-releases/rfid-survey-findings
[5] http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/11346846/retailers-increasing-use-of-rfid-tracking-tags
[6] http://www.rfid24-7.com/2015/01/14/nrf-day-2-macy%E2%80%99s-and-hudson%E2%80%99s-bay-expand-rfid-use-cases/
[7] http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?12183/
[8] http://www.mmh.com/article/rfid_the_macys_way


Carol Weidner, CEO of eZCom Software, is living proof of the adage "If you want something done right, ask a busy person." Soon after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in Mathematics, she opened her own successful business – wholesaling home wares and accessories in the New York/New Jersey area. Carol continued in her entrepreneurial endeavors while she returned to Rutgers full time and completed a second degree in Biology. Following her (second) graduation, Carol learned computer programming and focused on EDI – working for companies serving the retail industry and consulting for major retailers like Toys "R" Us. When an opportunity arose to take over a small many-to-many retail portal in 2000, Carol grabbed the reins. She directed the finance and sales side of the burgeoning company, while working together with a team of colleagues who redesigned one of its key products to serve as a web-based EDI application. The result was the B2B supply chain software provider eZCom Software – and the cloud-based EDI solution, Lingo. Carol can be reached at cweidner@ezcomsoftware.com or 201-731-1800. Learn more about eZCom Software at www.eZComsoftware.com.

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Tags:  RFID 

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Not Just for Retailers: How RFID Can Benefit Retail Brand Owners

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 10, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

by Sheldon R. Reich, CYBRA Corporation


If you sell to a major retailer, sooner or later you'll be supplying RFID-tagged merchandise. It's no secret that retailers with growing omni-channel initiatives see strong benefits with RFID from the DC to the back room and the selling floor. But did you know that every RBO (Retail Brand Owner) can also benefit from this empowering technology? Here's how to turn the cost of an EPC (Electronic Product Code) retail compliance mandate into a supply chain enhancing investment that will boost your bottom line.

When leading retailers publish their plans for implementing RFID, they roll it out by category and region. The buyer will send a letter informing you when to begin shipping goods with EPC-compliant RFID tags. Depending on the retailer, and your category, you will have a few choices on how to comply. If the rollout is partial, you can begin by tagging merchandise in your DC. Typically this is done at a VAS (Value Added Station). If the quantities of goods to be tagged represent a major portion of your sales, you may choose to have the products tagged at source.

Tag – You're It.
Too often, this is the minimum effort that suppliers expend to meet their retail customer RFID mandates. Operations folks are simply told to tag the goods and ship them to the correct DC. This "slap and ship" mentality is actually quite shortsighted. If you're going to the expense of tagging your merchandise, why not use the technology internally? Why not use it to improve your supply chain processes and improve your profitability? Here are a number of ways we've helped RBO's internally use the RFID tags they are mandated to attach to their products.

Receiving – This is the first place to put those RFID tags to work for you. We are working with a major brand to improve their inbound processes. Currently, they use fixed barcode scanners to decode the GS1-128 barcode for each carton and update purchase order records. The customer assumes that the barcode label applied at source accurately reflects the carton contents. However, scanning the GS1-128 barcode does not confirm whether or not the correct product is in the carton and whether it is short or not. The customer must audit a fair number of cartons to see if in fact the contents match the purchase order to the factory.

Now that the goods are tagged at the source, here's how the customer is taking advantage of RFID technology. Fixed RFID readers read the tags of every single item in the carton. The system compares the ASN (Advance Ship Notice) from the factory and confirms that each carton contains exactly what was ordered. This validation is an audit of every single carton arriving from overseas and it happens in real time without any misreads and without slowing down the receiving line.

Packing – This is the next place to put those RFID tags to work. By adding RFID reading to each pack station, operators do not have to scan each barcode as they pack an order. By validating the carton contents in real time, the customer benefits in two ways: the packing process is faster with the reduction in hand barcode scanning and errors are reduced to zero as operators can be signaled instantly if the wrong item is placed in the carton.

Shipping – Validation is one of RFID's most compelling benefits. Each carton loaded into an outbound trailer passes through an RFID Portal and is checked to confirm it is going on the right truck. In addition, this final validation also acts as a trigger for generating an EPOD (Electronic Proof of Delivery) record.

These three areas alone are just the beginning when it comes to internal benefits with RFID. Once your warehouse is filled with tagged items you can cycle count in a fraction of the time compared to traditional methods. Once the infrastructure is in place, RFID helps brand owners track preproduction samples, job tickets, and raw material bundles. Even showroom sales processes can be quickly and easily enhanced using RFID.

Why reap the benefits from your RFID tagging mandate? By putting RFID to work for your brand, you will reduce the costs of receiving, packing, and shipping goods, and you'll minimize chargebacks with improved order and shipment validation – with EPOD to back up your claims.


Sheldon R. Reich is Chief Solution Architect for CYBRA Corporation, the developer of EdgeMagic RFID Platform Software, and MarkMagic Barcode Label, E-Forms and Report Writing software. Sheldon has significant technical knowledge of Auto ID system design, integration, and troubleshooting on a wide range of platforms and has helped hundreds of companies implement Auto-ID systems since 1989. CYBRA and Jamison RFID, the leading manufacturer of RFID portals, are the RFID Sponsors and will be demonstrating their field-proven retail supply chain hardware and software at the RVCF Annual Fall Conference November 8-11 at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Sheldon can be reached at sreich@cybra.com or 914-963-6600 ext. 209. Learn more about CYBRA and Jamison RFID at: www.cybra.com and www.jamisonrfid.com

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Tags:  RFID 

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Why You Need to Get Up to Speed on RFID Right Now

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 9, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, October 7, 2014

by RVCF


If you browse through the agenda of the RVCF Annual Fall Conference, you'll find radio frequency identification (RFID) virtually everywhere. That's because the business case for item-level RFID is so powerful for both suppliers and retailers, from maximizing operational efficiency throughout the supply chain to delivering the best possible customer experience.

Inventory accuracy and the speed of cycle counts have been at the core of that business case and with good reason. University of Arkansas researchers found that physical inventory counts were just 64 percent accurate on average. That number jumped to 95 percent after deploying item-level RFID, while labor costs dropped considerably.

Traditionally, most stores would take physical inventory counts once or twice per year, so the data being used to track inventory was six months to a year old. This is ancient in today's retail environment. RFID enables daily inventory counts that take minutes with handheld scanners. If fixed readers are installed, the process can be done automatically with a push of a button. Because standards have stabilized in recent years, technology vendors have introduced more sophisticated readers that allow their customers to take almost continuous inventory.

The Key to Omni-Channel Retailing
Accurate, up-to-date inventory data and real time visibility into that data are absolutely essential to ensuring that you have the right product for sale at the right place at the right time. Industry leaders agree that RFID is a foundational component of an omni-channel retail strategy, which provides customers with a seamless shopping experience across all shopping channels.

For example, customers often have the option to order products online and pick up at the store. If a woman orders a size 12 pink angora sweater online and is told the sweater can be picked up at a specific store, that sweater better be there when the customer stops by to pick it up an hour later. Only item-level RFID can provide the visibility and reliable data required to offer such services without increasing labor costs.

Without RFID, time and resources are wasted trying to find merchandise, which contributes to a negative customer experience. Suppose a customer asks for a certain pair of shoes. The inventory system says they're out of stock, but you eventually find them buried under a pile of sweaters in the changing room. If a product isn't available for sale, you'll be forced to mark it down, which starts to affect your bottom line. Inventory accuracy for replenishment products solves the out of stock issue.

The goal is to sell merchandise within the first few weeks at full price, especially when that merchandise can go out of style or out of season almost as quickly. Merchandise can't sell if it isn't on the sales floor. RFID can tell you if a product is selling at one store but not selling at another. This allows you to get that product into a customer's hands by moving it to the store where the product is selling.

Use Cases Go Far Beyond In-Store Inventory
Suppliers are using item-level RFID to ensure accuracy with inbound and outbound shipments. When products from overseas arrive at the warehouse, RFID answers a number of important questions. What is on the truck? What is in each of the boxes? Are these the right products? Did someone try to introduce counterfeit goods? RFID is a valuable authentication tool, especially for luxury brands that constantly have to deal with the threat of knockoffs.

For outbound shipments, if a supplier doesn't deliver the right products in the proper quantities, compliance losses can be substantial. RFID helps suppliers and retailers build stronger relationships because both sides can verify shipment accuracy using the same data based on a common language – GS1 standards. This speeds the reconciliation process and allows suppliers to be paid more quickly. When you have unique identifiers at the item level, you have more granular data that accelerates the problem-solving process.

As RFID becomes part of regular operating procedures and you get more comfortable with the technology, you learn new use cases and extract more value from your investments. Because you've already built the infrastructure and data collection processes, it's simply a matter of learning to leverage that data in different ways.

For example, one use case for RFID that is picking up steam is sample tracking. As part of the sales cycle, a brand's merchandisers will bring samples to their retail partners. The marketing team may also use these samples for photo shoots. All samples are typically stored in a room at the brand owner's facility. To make sure all of these samples are returned to the sample room, brands are using item-level RFID to track sample inventory for themselves and minimize the risk of knockoffs.

The Time Is Now
As the business case for RFID continues to grow, more and more retailers are having discussions with suppliers to find out how close they are to deploying RFID at the item level. If you're a supplier in the apparel sector and haven't received requests to begin item-level RFID tagging, you should probably expect to receive them within the next two years.

Even if you're not ready to deploy RFID or begin a pilot project, it is important to start gathering information now. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of the wealth of RFID-related information that will be available at the RVCF Annual Fall Conference:

  • The complimentary GS1 US RFID Adoption Workshop will offer hands-on, step-by-step guidance on what is required to successfully deploy item-level RFID, from building a business case to understanding technical considerations.
  • Dr. Bill Hardgrave, Dean and Wells Fargo Professor, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University and founder of the RFID Research Center, will lead "Retailers Only" and "Suppliers Only" sessions about the current state of RFID.
  • Paul Arguin, Senior Director, RFID Development, r-pac International, will lead a number of 101- and 201-level sessions designed to help retailers and suppliers build a strong informational foundation for RFID.

Register for the RVCF Annual Fall Conference here.


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Tags:  Item Level Tagging  RFID 

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