Apparel wholesaler and retailer Advance Apparels has deployed a SimplyRFID system designed to be quick and easy to adopt, and to capture product shelf locations in its warehouse.
Jul 28, 2021Advance Apparels, a women’s fashion company that sells wholesale clothing made at its two factories in India, reports that it has gained a precise view of the merchandise in its warehouse by expanding its delivery models from wholesale to sale. by retail. The company, which adopted a UHF RFID solution from SimplyRFID that is inexpensive and easily deployable, uses the technology to identify where each carton of goods is located in its Hackensack warehouse. The solution is based on the new Marker Tag product from SimplyRFID, which identifies the warehouse rack or shelf where labeled goods are stored.
SimplyRFID’s Wave iOS app links each inventory tag to a marker tag to create a location for all labeled merchandise for Advance Apparels. The company offers over 6,000 storage units (SKUs), ranging from tie-dye umbrella dresses and blouses to beachwear and African or Ankara fashion. It operates two warehouses in New Jersey, one in Hackensack and the other in South Hackensack, according to Akash Bajaj, the company’s director.
Until recently, the company sold its products in wholesale markets, but more recently it has started dropshipping for retailers, as a service provided by a third-party supplier. The business stores inventory for the retailer and ships it to a buyer who purchases on the store’s website. Advance Apparels products are also sold in beach stores and boutiques. Most of the stores that carry its merchandise are small businesses, the company reports. And last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Advance Apparels opened a direct retail website.
Customers are already logging into the new site after seeing clothes in stores and making direct purchases. “We had a lot of traction on our website.” Bajaj said. “This is going to be a big part of our business going forward.” By diversifying, however, the company now has a more complex system in its warehouses. As a result, storing and locating goods, as well as understanding real-time inventories, have become more difficult. Additionally, since Advance Apparels serves small businesses rather than big box retailers, orders can be small and require opening multiple cases and removing small amounts of product.
The South Hackensack warehouse is the smaller of the two, measuring approximately 14,000 square feet. The technology has been put into operation there, with the 22,000 square foot Hackensack installation expected to follow in the fall. The Hackensack site was chosen for the first deployment because, as the main distribution center, it has the highest inventory turnover. When it comes to counting stocks manually, Bajaj says, “There has been bad information over the years,” but it has improved in recent years, he notes.
The work associated with knowing the inventory on-site and where it is stored has been exhaustive, says Bajaj. Since the company provides wholesale, retail and drop shipping services to other retailers, he explains, “The complexity is difficult to manage in the system. The RFID solution is designed to track merchandise at checkout level. Typically, there are 48 units in each case. Due to the relatively low value of a single garment, he says, “it doesn’t work for garment tracking yet.” However, the company intends to move to item-level tracking over time.
The solution consists of CS108 portable RFID readers from Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL) that are attached to forklifts or carried by warehouse workers. Inventory levels are entered as vehicles move through the aisles, as well as by people walking with a reader in specific areas. Advance Apparels uses four levels of shelving on which pallets of goods are stored. The two lower shelves are dedicated to bulk goods, without any RFID tracking. Preparers take their orders, browse the shelves and search the boxes to retrieve the items needed to fulfill each order.
The top two racks contain full cartons which are followed via Avery Dennison AD229 inlays, each on a 4×2 inch label. SimplyRFID provides the finished and coded product. Each passive UHF RFID tag is affixed to a box upon receipt from the manufacturing site in India. The unique ID number on the label is linked to SKU data in SimplyRFID’s cloud-based software and Wave app. The app allows users to view the data on their Apple iPhone and pair it to the portable reader.
Once the goods are stored, they will be periodically identified using portable readers or mounted on a forklift. The markers can then automate the location data. “A tag is really a breadcrumb trail of where an RFID tagged item is located,” says Carl Brown, president of SimplyRFID. “When our [Wave] Portable RFID software sees an RFID tag tag near an RFID tagged item, it adds a trace – a history – of the location of an RFID tag. Shelf 5, row 15. “
As forklift operators go on their normal routes, they scan all RFID tagged inventory, view the nearest tagging labels, and update the marker locations for those items. The Wave software captures the ID of each marker, as well as the ID of each labeled box, and stores this location information. Thousands of tracking tags can be defined and placed in a warehouse to dynamically update RFID tag positions as tagged goods move through the business. Wave software notes the new location of an inventory tag whenever it detects a new tag and marker combination.
When Advance Apparels’ inventory is restocked on weekends, workers also use the RFID reader. They can visualize the location of each box and move the product to the lower shelf, accessible to preparers during the following week. The software updates the status of each box as it is moved, and it can trigger factory replenishment orders. Any remaining boxes that are moved to the recycling area can also be scanned to indicate that a box is empty.
SimplyRFID has found some commonality in the needs of the womenswear business, says Brown. “Advance has the typical problem: SKUs at the case or pallet level and the need for a storage process in multiple places,” he says. “They’re not huge and can’t use bots like Amazon. Wave is fine because we can handle cases and give them running totals in terms of product availability.”
In addition, the solution has been customized to take into account times when printing RFID labels would not be realistic. This feature resulted due to a request for
Bajaj. SimplyRFID encodes tags in bulk, assigning 20 tags at a time to a single SKU. This feature, explains Brown, “helps the company when they’re not using a printing system.“ They can use a pre-encoded label and scan a bunch, ”he says,“ and turn them into what ‘they want. This is a useful feature now for many customers. “
Prior to deploying the technology earlier this year, Bajaj recalls, Advance Apparels did not fully trust the inventory information it had about its warehouses. In many situations, the company had to order goods that they did not need because they could not be found. Additionally, employees sometimes had to search the warehouse before placing orders to confirm that the specific items they needed needed to be restocked. The RFID solution, he says, reduces the need for such manual checks and avoids both stockouts and oversupply.
After reviewing the available RFID solutions, says Bajaj, he chose SimplyRFID for its ability to solve problems at a lower cost. “When I looked at all the RFID solutions,” he says, “it seemed like the easiest to set up and the cheapest. The marker is one of the things that marked us. This reduced our research time. by a ridiculous amount of time. “The system, including markers, has been in place since last February. Once stationary readers are deployed, markers will still provide benefits within the warehouse, he says, adding that the solution also opens doors for expansion, such as adding West Coast distribution centers.
In the meantime, SimplyRFID has tested the markers internally for the past nine months and has been actively working with clients since the spring. With the Wave app, Data Marker Tag provides audit reports on what inventory was on which shelf based on tag data, as well as when it was there, and it can push that data to ServiceNow, QuickBooks and other enterprise resource planning systems.