How to achieve real-time stock visibility
RFID/EPCIS in the supply chain
By Tom Vieweger
By Tom Vieweger
Online and offline shopping belong together. Driven by the reality we are currently living in, consumer behaviour is shifting rapidly and has become more digital than ever. Experts say that we are now five years ahead of where we would normally be when it comes to the adoption of digital shopping. In this world, stock visibility is essential.
While retail is changing fast, the lines between logistics, e-commerce, and pure store operations are blurring. In an omnichannel world, it is necessary to ‘orchestrate’ stock across a highly connected distribution network. Finally, the objective is to bring the products to the channel where they are most needed to make customers happy. However, the situation in many retailer organizations is still characterized by many different data- and stock-silos.
Consequently, achieving total stock visibility is the foundation for routing the right products at the right time to the right channels. An EPCIS repository, holding all read events from various RFID read points along the whole supply chain, is the easiest and most efficient solution to aggregate stock information from all possible locations.
Undeniably, RFID helps to identify individual products seamlessly. It is hardly efficient just to replace barcode-processes with RFID. Instead, it has been proven to be successful in finding bottlenecks when RFID read points are integrated with the flow of goods. This is because RFID technology can easily track any movement or status change. Because of this, the following benefits can be realized:
The automated accuracy checking at the item-level of all deliveries and shipments enables distribution centres to operate with accurate stocks.
An RFID-based validation of shipments ensures all deliveries go to the correct destinations. It also enables the user with full traceability (e.g., for return logistics).
The ability to know exactly what you have and exactly where it all is can reduce overstocks and enable better timing of replenishment. This ability also provides better data to forecast future demand.
To be able to react to shifting demands, brands and retailers need to understand the flow of their products fully. This will allow real-time insights into their processes, stock levels, and locations. This is where RFID and EPCIS (the ‘Electronic Product Code Information Service’ standard) can create end-to-end stock visibility, assuming the products are source-tagged and logistics facilities are equipped with read-points.
An EPCIS repository is connecting the various silos of stock-keeping systems along the supply chain, such as WMS, SCM, ERP, or POS.
By covering all product movements and status changes with RFID read-point, an EPCIS repository provides a true real-time perspective on the actual stock situation.
Each product carries its unique identity and can thus be tracked and traced along its whole life-cycle.
Another valuable insight for retailers is the sublocation of an item within a store. Only RFID can associate the registered items with their location and manage the stock among various sub-locations.
With the EPCIS standard, it is possible to exchange data from one EPCIS with others – having the EPC as the unique access key to the data.
In today’s omnichannel world, product availability is a relevant source of value to customers. To respond to customer needs, brands and retailers must know where specific products are along the entire supply chain. Deployment of RFID technology, especially within the fashion industry’s supply chains, provides access to real-time item information anywhere within the network.