Herman Kay ensures high accuracy via RFID implementation. Looking for a great example of RFID implementations in fashion retail? An example that serves both – manufacturer as well as retail customer? The case of Herman Kay should definitely have your attention.
Herman Kay Company has been in the fashion business for three generations. This family-owned business manufactures and markets coats and outerwear for major high-end brands such as BCBG, DVF, London Fog, Michael Kors and Anne Klein. Its outerwear products can be found at large retailers such as Macy's, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor Bonton and Dillard's.
With design teams and showrooms in New York and distribution facilities in Georgia, as well as a vast customer and retail base, it is obvious that high accuracy and visibility in all processes are essential. Products are constantly being designed, stored, picked and shipped, so the potential for and the need to avoid human error is significant.
RFID entering the equation
When retail customers asked for RFID tagged goods, Herman Kay was quick to adapt the new technology. Herman Kay sought out experts in the RFID solutions space and selected Nordic ID partner SML for RFID solutions and tags. Items are source-tagged with RFID hang tags from SML. Serving their customers better was not the only aim of the implementation; Herman Kay also wanted to evaluate whether the technology could aid their internal operations across a number of processes.
As Herman Kay serves high-end customers, the company's expectations are nothing short of perfection. Herman Kay decided to minimize the chance of human error, avoid time consuming mistakes and aim for increased visibility by tracking garments through all phases of production and shipping. Soon it became apparent that RFID would be a great enabler for their 100 % excellence goal.
In order to maximize the benefits gained from the technology implementation Herman Kay decided on a phased RFID roll-out.
The RFID supported processes
- Picking and checking
- Verification of Packing at weight stations
- Outbound shipments (portals)
- Goods-in / receiving
Don’t leave accuracy to chance
Previously staff had to rely on catching human errors via visual inspection of items and non-RFID hang tickets. This approach is not only prone to error but also labor intensive and time consuming. The sheer size alone of the vast warehouses is enough to cause this. If you pick the wrong rack for delivery, it takes a painstakingly long time to go back and bring a new rack to the packing station. With the help of RFID, Herman Kay can now verify that picking operations are executed to perfection.
Employees now use the SML Clarity™ application on Nordic ID Medea UHF RFID Adaptive Cross Dipole mobile computers for picking and packing orders for shipments to retailers. The Clarity™ application makes sure that a picking list for each order is available on the mobile computer so that staff can select the correct items and load them on a Garment on Hanger (GOH) trolley. This ensures that quantities, colors and styles match the order 100 %. The correct content is then verified before the order is taken to packing. This approach allows the company to catch errors before products are physically taken to the next process step and packed.
At the packing station, items are being checked against a packing list that has been sent to Clarity™ and the operator uses another Nordic ID Medea mobile computer to validate the packing operation. At the shipping dock door cartons are checked in Clarity™ using fixed RFID readers against an ASN (Advanced Ship Notice) to insure that each shipment is complete and accurate. If the content does not match the expected shipping list, the carton can be opened and its content repacked if necessary.
The shipment verification is built on the basis of the EPCs in the carton and the boxes’ carton barcode information. Shipment verification is done with an RFID portal.
Herman Kay also utilizes RFID reader gates at each of its shipping docks at the distribution center. They gain valuable insight into what items arrive from the factories to the DC and what products go out from the DC to the retailers. The tracking is implemented using a system of RFID readers and RFID antennas that capture the data.
The visibility brought by RFID benefits Herman Kay in many ways; the company easily verify that loads are on the right outbound trucks and ensure proper receipt of goods. Electronic proof of delivery helps to reduce chargebacks. Soon, the company will scan goods going into containers at the factory, so they can better anticipate goods they will be receiving and reduce paperwork.
Aim for perfection: right product at the right place at the right time
The effort has paid off. RFID implementation success depends strongly on how the technology is taken into use. In the case of Herman Kay, it is easy to conclude that the short ROI (return on investment) is proof that the company has put their money where their mouth is.
Richard Haig, CIO and CTO at Herman Kay, says that RFID has made the company a better partner for its customers. “I know where every product is at any given time and in the future all of my customers will
know it too.”
Increasing accuracy or achieving increased visibility are topics that should not be left to chance.