Alliance Entertainment needed to reduce errors in the order fulfillment process to make adequate margins. Alliance turned to RFID to automate the picking process to reduce errors in shipped orders.
The RFID solution delivers:
- Automated order checking with invoices tied to RFID tags
- Significant labor and shipping cost savings
In its CDF segment, Alliance Entertainment must run a very lean operation in order to realize adequate margins. The previous approach to order fulfillment—manual processing using barcodes—was labor intensive, inefficient, and prone to human error. Here’s how it operated: Alliance Entertainment picked and packed the CDF orders in a sequential fashion using a barcode shipment identifier. After the initial product batch pick, workers would manually evaluate each order, sort the product, pack it, attach a removable barcode plate for identification, and convey the packages to a secondary location for weighing and the printing of shipping labels. Boxes were weighed and labeled according to the barcode plate, so if at any point along this sequential process a worker error managed to disrupt the sequence (and thus, the association of package to barcode plate), many shipments could be affected. As Alliance Entertainment ships orders directly to consumers under the identity of the retailer who took the order, incorrect shipments resulted in bad business relations with the retailers who compete with each other for consumer business, to say nothing of customers who received the wrong product. Customer returns and subsequent reshipments also added directly to the cost of doing business. Running six days a week, the CDF operation processes an average of 15,000 packages a day; even a small percentage of errors could produce a significant impact on the bottom line.
After reading about RFID technology in a magazine article, Alliance Entertainment’s James Rink, vice president of distribution, worked with Avery Dennison in their Atlantic Technical Center (ATC) to appraise RFID products in a real-world environment. At the ATC, Alliance Entertainment had access to a variety of RFID tags and readers, and could test them all in various combinations to evaluate their performance on the worst case product application—DVDs and CDs encased in metallic-foil graphic covers. After testing readers from Alien, Impinj, Symbol, AWID, and others with a variety of tag configurations, the performance of Impinj’s Speedway reader surpassed all other contenders. In combination with the Avery-Dennison AD-222 label, powered by Impinj’s Monza tag chip, only the Speedway reader consistently achieved 100% read rates. Alliance Entertainment subsequently purchased Speedway readers via Impinj value-added resell partner, ADT Security Services, Inc.
After initially performing verification reads at many points along the line, Alliance Entertainment realized they could reduce read checkpoints to the final verification read operation before shipping and still achieve the desired results, which, said Mr. Rink, included “significant labor and shipping cost savings.” Alliance has since expanded the RFID solution to six automated lines: four in Florida, and two in Kentucky.
Alliance Entertainment Corporation
Alliance Entertainment Corporation is a leading provider of home entertainment products (CDs, DVDs, videos, video games, and related merchandise). Their business model comprises both direct-to-retail store distribution and Consumer Direct Fulfillment (CDF), providing services to over 30,000 storefronts and shipping over five million individual customer orders per year.
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