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Why Should the Focus of RFID be on the Supply Chain?

How can the Impinj platform transform your supply chain? This blog explores the ROI of applying RAIN RFID.

Why RFID for Supply Chain?

For real-time data for real-time decisions
In a global market, a supply chain can cause logistical challenges for an enterprise. In order to operate efficiently and effectively, businesses must know their inventory levels, inventory location, and intended destination. RAIN RFID helps track inventory, automates manual processes in the supply chain, and makes data on individual assets and inventory available in real-time.

What are Radio Frequency Identification Tags?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a form of wireless communication that uses radio waves to identify and track objects.The system consists of a tag chip and a reader: an RFID tag chip can either be battery-powered and send signals back to the reader (active) or rely on the reader for power to send and receive signals (passive). RFID tags can be adhered to or embedded into anything from clothing to medical supplies to luggage to tires.

The Impinj platform uses RAIN RFID, a passive wireless technology, to empower businesses and consumers to locate and identify billions of individual items. Impinj has enabled over 40 billion items to be connected to the Internet of Things in industries such as healthcare, hospitality, air travel, and industrial manufacturing. RAIN RFID can be used in a wide variety of applications within these industries: this blog will outline why some of the most dramatic ROI is happening when RAIN RFID is used in the supply chain.

How can RFID be used to manage inventory?

To know where everything is, in real-time
IoT technology, particularly RAIN RFID, is gaining popularity as an inventory management tool. It’s a logical transition: RAIN RFID takes some of the doubt and a lot of the work out of counting and monitoring inventory. By attaching or embedding tags into products and using RAIN RFID readers instead of barcode scanners, taking inventory becomes much faster and nearly 100% accurate. RAIN RFID can identify and locate up to 1,000 individual items per second. Taking inventory with a RAIN RFID handheld reader is 25X faster than with a barcode reader.

What does that look like in practice?

“Heilan Home increased inventory accuracy and efficiency with the ability to read 400 clothing labels in five seconds at 100% accuracy. By eliminating manual barcode scanning, Heilan Home estimated a labor cost reduction in the tens of millions of dollars per year.”

The Benefits of Using RAIN RFID in Supply Chains

RAIN RFID saves time, money, and labor hours by automating and streamlining different parts of the supply chain process:

Automate verification of shipments 
A RAIN RFID shipment verification solution can deliver real-time visibility, create confirmation or exception alerts, and initiate shipping and receiving workflows. RAIN RFID, provides visibility into a warehouse so goods can be tracked as they move in and out of a facility. When connected with internal systems that run shipping and receiving, businesses gain information that can automate even more aspects of the job.

Automate verification of pallet contents
A pallet contents verification solution that uses RAIN RFID can verify that the correct cartons have been loaded onto a pallet. Packers can receive alerts when items are missing. Further, the contents of a pallet can be automatically matched to the order documentation, so there’s no more wasted time hand-scanning barcodes.

Atomate managing assets 
Keeping a supply chain humming along requires more than just managing inventory. Expensive assets like returnable transit items (RTIs) need to be tracked and maintained. Automate the management of warehouse assets to lower costs, improve utilization, and reduce loss and logistics down-time.

How Impinj is Helping Supply Chains with RFID Technology

Impinj RAIN RFID tags provide real-time data on the location of pallets, packages, or individual items, such as parts or assets. The Impinj platform then connects that data to existing enterprise software systems, providing businesses with a flexible solution to automate and streamline different processes within their supply chain.

Companies around the world rely on Impinj to connect objects to applications, applying RAIN RFID to solve challenges in their supply chain with successful results:

In addition to saving time and labor, there are some unexpected benefits of adding RAIN RFID to your supply chain. Accurate real-time inventory frees companies from having to buy safety stock, which ties up US $24.2 billion per year for North American companies. Once China Outfitters no longer had to open and reopen boxes to verify contents, they were able to save time and money on everyday consumables like packing tape—which really adds up when you’re supplying 850 retail outlets.

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Why RFID May Separate Retail’s Winners From the Losers

Online sales are booming with some stores closed and many consumers hesitant to shop in person.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

While the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on retail, in many ways it simply accelerated a number of trends already in place. Add the increasing importance of RFID technology to that list, says MKM Partners.

Analyst Roxanne Meyer writes that she has long argued that radio-frequency identification, which is often used for tracking purposes, is the key technology that separates the leaders in retail from the laggards. In the pandemic era, that thesis is all the more relevant, she argues, as the current environment has only increased the need for as much inventory accuracy as possible.

As we’ve noted before, online sales are booming, and along with that are more returns and demand for contactless shopping options, such as curbside pickup. All of these require real-time inventory accountability, especially if retailers don’t want to disappoint shoppers, who may go elsewhere if orders get delayed or canceled, or employees can’t locate items that are supposed to be in stock.

Meyer notes that some retailers have been quicker than others to use RFID to their advantage. Their names are likely familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to retail stocks lately.

“The early RFID adopters are athletic apparel companies such as Lululemon athletica (LULU) and Nike (NKE) who benefit from both higher demand for casual clothing, as well as from a more seamless supply chain, which we view as a competitive advantage that will separate them further from the pack over time,” she wrote in a research note.

This dovetails with both companies’ willingness to invest in technology. Nike, as Barron’s has noted, hasn’t only been pushing to increase its online presence and sell directly to consumers, but also investing in innovation. So has Lululemon, which many have also dubbed a long-term retail winner. It isn’t surprising that athletic and athleisure brands, who have seen orders soar during Covid and have long been willing to invest in their businesses on multiple fronts, would be beneficiaries.

Meyer believes that the pandemic has pushed retail to a tipping point, where those that can take advantage of strong RFID investments will reap the benefits. “We expect to have much more to say on this topic into the second half and beyond,” she concludes.

Stay tuned.

By Teresa Rivas June 24, 2020

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A new reality for a post-pandemic world

Mark Timms, CEO of MobiZcan, Impinj’s representative for Latin America and Brazil.

Although focused primarily on the Latin America RAIN RFID and data capture market, I also follow what is happening in RAIN RFID in the North America region. I would like to share my observations on the RAIN RFID space in the United States during this period of uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus.

Like Latin America, many projects have been delayed due to extensive social distancing and economic uncertainty. The general belief is that the American economy will spring back to pre-COVID levels, but it is likely to take two years or more. There is a debate as to whether the recovery will be more “U” or “W” shaped. A “V” shaped recovery is looking increasingly unlikely.

It is also likely that post-COVID, some business models will not look exactly the same as before. With the widespread usage of video conferencing and on-line collaboration there may not be the need to travel as much. With the closure of so many retail stores and the growth of e-commerce, the retail sector, already in transformation, has been forced to accelerate its re-invention. Some experts believe that the large department stores that anchor shopping centers will not survive, at least not in their present form. Other retailers, especially those without a strong e-commerce presence, may go out of business.

Digital transformation is now hot, and although the effects won’t be immediate, I expect RAIN RFID to play a significant role. Many retailers, leading with fashion, had justified item level tagging prior to COVID-19. Omni-channel sales require very high real-time visibility, which only item-level RAIN RFID tagging can provide.

Conveyance and sortation system: esteiras que separam produtos automaticamente em Centros de Distribuição (CD)

The big retail winners in the day of COVID are the large and efficient online retailers, most notably Amazon, and large retailers with groceries and home goods and a strong online presence, especially Walmart and Target. Amazon’s business accelerated so much that it has struggled to deliver on time. Walmart has seen both strong performance in its stores and with its e-commerce site, often using its stores as omni-channel distribution centers. Having earlier announced wide-spread item tagging beginning in the second half of 2020, the COVID crisis hasn’t impacted Walmart’s RFID roll-out plans for this year. The product mixes have changed somewhat since the Coronavirus arrived, but demand for these fortunate retailers remains strong.

Interest in logistics for RAIN RFID is robust and in some cases has accelerated. There are several very significant RAIN projects in logistics that will become visible this year or next, which will help to further fuel investment in this area. Several projects at very well-known companies will become public, causing other companies in their eco-system to consider investing in RAIN infrastructure to reap similar benefits.  Logistics applications are generally dock door transitions and shipment verification (pallet and box level) and conveyance sortation systems (box level). In addition to increasing visibility, RAIN RFID has proven to greatly reduce the manual interventions required with barcodes alone, thereby reducing errors and associated costs.

Healthcare, a potentially huge but slow-moving market for RAIN RFID, is showing interest in tagging of PPE products, which could help accelerate adoption of RFID with consumables in general.

There is much that we don’t know and is difficult to predict. Clearly there will be winners and losers. However it’s becoming clear that at least in some segments, the COVID crisis may actually accelerate RAIN RFID adoption, most notably in e-commerce, omni-channel and logistics.