The long term future of RFID tags and labels obviously depends on gaining sufficient volumes to drive down unit and system operating costs. The fact that Marks & Spencer will apply RFID tags to individual items of clothing in a project starting later this year is good news for supporters of the technology. “Marks and Sparks”, as it is affectionately known, sells own-brand quality food and clothing in hundreds of stores throughout the UK and other parts of the world. It is already using RFID-tagged plastic trays and carriers within its food supply chain.
In the new project, each RFID tag will give individual items of apparel its own number. Managers will then track its progress through the UK high street retailer’s supply chain to improve overall efficiency. “We can aim for perfect availability of goods for customers. We can also reduce the handling and counting operations allowing staff to spend more time to serve customers on the shop floor,” says James Stafford, technical executive, intellectual property.
The pilot scheme is funded in part by the UK Department of Trade & Industry and forms part of a larger project involving commercial companies and academics who are investigating practical RFID applications in UK industry.