RFID in Apparel Retail: Multi-Stage Applications and Current Challenges

2024-05-16 17:50

According to the industry application report by Cainiao and the China Apparel Innovation Research Institute, RFID technology is currently most widely used in the apparel retail sector, with about 70% of RFID tags deployed in clothing, footwear, and other retail products. Leading companies in the apparel industry are increasingly adopting RFID technology, with approximately 10% of clothing now utilizing RFID tags.

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Applications of RFID Technology in the Apparel Industry

RFID technology, particularly UHF RFID, is renowned for its long recognition distance (up to several meters), rapid batch identification, and extensive data storage capabilities. It is widely applied across various stages of apparel production, distribution, and retail, significantly enhancing overall supply chain efficiency.

1. Warehouse Receiving, Shipping, and Inventory Management

In warehouses, UHF RFID gate readers are installed on shelves. As goods move in and out, the system automatically identifies and records them without the need for manual scanning, greatly improving receiving and shipping efficiency.

Employees equipped with handheld RFID readers can swiftly identify items in the warehouse, update inventory information, and conduct flexible and efficient stocktaking.

2. In-Store Inventory and Product Location

RFID readers deployed in stores allow sales staff to quickly locate specific items using handheld RFID devices, significantly reducing customer wait times.

These smart terminals support bulk reading of item RFID tags, even when products are densely packed, making inventory checks faster and more efficient.

3. Checkout and Theft Prevention

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In the checkout process, RFID technology enables the use of self-checkout machines integrated with RFID readers. Customers simply pass their shopping baskets through the machine, which automatically identifies and processes the items for payment, simplifying the payment process.

Challenges and Obstacles in RFID Adoption in Apparel Retail

Despite the significant potential of RFID technology in the apparel retail sector, several issues need addressing to achieve broader adoption.

1. Dense Tag Reading Issues

In the apparel industry, items like scarves, ties, and underwear are small and often densely packed, causing interference among RFID tags. This interference reduces RF performance and impacts tag reading efficiency.

2. Interference from Metal Shelves

Common metal shelves in warehouses or stores can interfere with RFID signals, affecting the accuracy of tag readings.

3. Tag Cross-Read and Miss-Read Issues

In complex retail environments, cross-reading (incorrectly reading non-target item tags) or miss-reading (failing to read target item tags) can occur, reducing the accuracy and efficiency of inventory management.

To address these challenges, experienced and capable RFID solution providers have proposed a range of solutions.

For the issue of tag stacking and recognition, system providers use mutual coupling compensation technology. By adjusting each tag’s circuitry, they cleverly utilize the interference signals between adjacent tags to offset each other, ensuring normal tag operation.

To mitigate the interference from metal shelves on RFID tag signals in warehouses, flexible anti-metal RFID tags can be used.

These tags employ special foam or plastic insulating materials to separate the RFID tag from the metal surface, effectively reducing the reflection and absorption of RFID signals by the metal, ensuring normal operation and reading performance.

For cross-reading and miss-reading issues, optimizing RFID software configurations and adjusting reader settings can significantly improve identification accuracy by precisely controlling reading range and sensitivity.

As the cost of RFID technology continues to decrease and its capabilities advance, its application in the apparel industry is expected to expand further.

About iDPRT

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As a premium supplier of RFID hardware in China, iDPRT provides a wide range of RFID devices, including RFID printers and handheld terminals. Our flagship iX4R high-performance RFID label printer supports the mass printing and encoding of UHF RFID tags and anti-metal tags. Feel free to reach out for more product details and a free quote!

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