Dutch Bookseller Goes Its Own RFID Way
By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN), the Dutch bookseller, is testing radio frequency identification (RFID) at the item level. Aside from a few experiments, it is unusual for a retailer to implement item level RFID tagging. The normal implementation is at the pallet and case level.
BGN receives all but two percent of their books from a single distributor. Because most of the books are repackaged for shipment to the store, they are able to put RFID tags on individual books as they are selected. They also put an RFID tag on the shipping container. This puts some extra cost on shipping but reaps many benefits in the store.
When merchandise arrives at the store, it is checked in through the “Tunnel”, which is a conveyor-like device through which all the containers pass. The RFID reader in the tunnel detects the individual book tags and the container tag. The reader results are matched against an advance ship notice from the distribution center to verify that all the tags have been read. Books for special orders are quickly identified and set aside for customers.
Inventories can be taken quickly with a portable reader that is used to scan the shelf areas and count books in stock or locate strays. Customer kiosks are used to display the location and number of copies on hand. Shelf readers have not yet been installed, so the location is still based on planograms.
This solution utilizes software products developed by Progress Software and integrated by CaptureTech. What really makes this approach unique is the decision by the retailer not to wait for book publishers or the general supplier world to catch up with RFID. Recognizing the potential benefits at the retail level, they have decided it is worth the additional cost in the distribution center.
Moderator’s Comment: There is much debate about the benefits of RFID for suppliers. Does it make sense for more retailers to begin attaching RFID labels
themselves? Can it be done at both the case and item-level or does it makes sense to merely do cases at this time?
I really believe there is an opportunity here for some retailers. I have always been an advocate of case labels for selecting merchandise. I really believe
the case labels, if they include the retailer’s internal ID numbers, can do nothing but help the shelf stocking process in the store. This is especially true as more varieties
of an item are carried and English may be a second language for the worker.
So if the labels attached at the distribution center also contained an RFID that gave a unique identity to each container, then retailers could begin to
achieve many of the benefits of RFID without waiting for manufacturers to make their changes. At some point, the total benefits of RFID for all the players in the supply chain
will make source labeling economical, but for now it makes sense that some retailers will want to do it themselves. –
Bill Bittner – Moderator