Italian fashion retailer Patrizia Pepe implemented an RFID solution to improve shipping logistics from their suppliers to their distribution center and finally, to retail locations.
The RFID solution delivers:
- Twice as efficient warehouse procedures, increasing goods handled from 200 per hour to 400 per hour
- Improved accuracy
- Engaging in-store customer experiences
Patrizia Pepe wished to improve the logistics of their warehouse: accepting incoming goods from their production sites, movement of items throughout the warehouse, and packaging of goods for distribution to the retail locations. They initially tried to use barcodes for this function. Because barcodes must be individually scanned within a line-of-sight, the acceptance of goods coming into the warehouse was too time consuming.
Working with the University of Florence, Patrizia Pepe instituted a five-month pilot project beginning in August of 2009 to test the validity of an RFID solution. The pilot involved tagging of about 60,000 items for the second seasonal collection, and convinced the company to move forward with tagging all items.
How it Works
Patrizia Pepe selected Solos Identificazione e Protezione as the system integrator for the production project. Solos, being more focused on item and identification and labels rather than the hardware, contracted with The Red Tree for the RFID hardware. The Red Tree, in turn, selected the Impinj Speedway Revolution reader because of its reputation for high quality and excellent performance.
Initial work during the pilot phase included choosing where to locate the RFID tag, as well as what information to write. In Patrizia Pepe’s case, they decided to include the EAN 13 (a barcode standard that originated in Europe, but is defined by GS1 standards organization as a superset of the United States Universal Product Code), country of production information, and the production order. They located the RFID tag behind the barcode on their brand label, so they could encode the RFID tag information simultaneously with the barcode printing. Currently, they use two types of label, a 64 x 34 cm and a 37 x 14 cm format. Both of these use Impinj Monza tag chips.
Pre-encoded and printed tags are sent to Patrizia Pepe’s product manufacturers, who place the tags on finished goods. The problem then became one of ensuring valid reads of all the tags at the warehouse.
For goods entering and exiting the warehouse in boxes, The Red Tree created custom tunnels to meet specific carton dimensional requirements. Each custom tunnel includes four The Red Tree-designed antennas that connect to one Impinj Speedway Revolution reader. Patrizia Pepe uses seven of these tunnels, which also include a weighing system to verify the weight of each box passing through the tunnel.
For apparel that travels throughout the warehouse on hanging-rack conveyors, The Red Tree created custom portals (also based on an Impinj Speedway Revolution reader) with four antennas—two near field and two far field. Four of these portals are distributed throughout the warehouse, allowing Patrizia Pepe to more easily pinpoint the location of goods within their operation.
The primary benefit to Patrizia Pepe to date has been efficiency in the logistics process. For goods entering the warehouse, an operator used to handle 180-200 goods per hour using a barcode reader. With the new RFID system, they have increased their operation rate to 380-400 goods per hour. For distribution of goods to the retail locations (exiting the warehouse), each operator used to be able to process 140 goods per hour. Now, using the RFID system, it’s 330 goods per hour.
In addition to the increased efficiency, greater accuracy has also been a benefit of RFID-enabled logistics, as evidenced during the last season, when Patrizia Pepe did not receive a single error notification from any of their clients. The entire warehouse relies solely on RFID. Now that all of their products—about 2.2 million items—have RFID tags, Patrizia Pepe is investigating how to take further advantage of the technology.
The first effort has been to include a product information “totem” area at retail locations in Florence and Rome. As customers walk by, the totem provides information about the garments they are carrying. Large monitors linked to the company’s website display information such as garment construction details, show short videos of a model wearing the clothes, and give advice on possible coordinating items or accessories—all enhancements to the customer experience while potentially providing additional sales opportunity.
Patrizia Pepe has future goals of monitoring the movement of goods throughout their retail locations by taking advantage of the RFID tags and the information they hold.
Patrizia Pepe Fashion
Patrizia Pepe, a fashion brand of Tessilform Spa that was established in 1998, has a presence throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. With collections for women, men, and young girls, Patrizia Pepe offers a complete fashion look including a wide range of accessories, from shoes to bags and jewelry. The company sells its clothing lines through a network of retailers, as well as in its own stores.
Tessilform runs the Patrizia Pepe brand with a business concept that provides both traditionally scheduled collections, as well as smaller, weekly collections that provide retailers with constantly fresh stock. They support this business approach with a flexible design, production and distribution system run from their Florence headquarters.
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