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RFID goes on tour with rock band Phish

The WaterWheel Foundation, the charitable arm of rock band Phish, is turning to RFID to better control inventories of T-shirts, caps and other items while the band is on tour. The WaterWheel Foundation applied RFID tags to more than 2,500 items during the band’s tour last summer. The  logoed items are awarded to concertgoers who support the foundation’s non-profit work.

WaterWheel’s RFID-tagged items were also on hand to be awarded to supportive fans when Phish performed at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve.

By utilizing a new RFID software application donated by Truecount Corp. called TC Mobile Merch, WaterWheel Foundation has been able to dramatically reduce receive and pack-out times and achieve near perfect accuracy rates for cycle counts.

The WaterWheel Foundation spends nearly 100 days on the road each year, packing, transporting, unpacking and then repacking thousands of Phish and The WaterWheel Foundation logoed items that are awarded to fans who support the foundation’s non-profit work.

WaterWheel is staffed largely by volunteers on the road and net donations flow directly to pre-selected non-profit organizations in the communities where Phish performs. This makes time and efficiencies critical factors in managing inventories, as any loss in time or inventory directly impacts the local non-profit community.

“Truecount RFID technology has cut inventory time significantly,” says WaterWheel’s tour director, Mathew Beck. “Hand counts that previously took up to two hours to execute, are now completed in about ten minutes. With huge blocks of valuable time saved, our volunteer staff can focus on what we do best: interacting with Phish fans. This in turn, results in more donations for our designated charities.”

The WaterWheel Foundation, known for its ecologically friendly approach, maintains a large inventory of items, ranging from organic cotton beanies to hoodies and other outer wear fashioned from all-natural or recycled fabrics.

The foundation’s challenge is to maintain accurate stock levels for thousands of WaterWheel logoed items throughout the duration of each tour as well as online.

“With so many moving parts, we are always working to make sure we don’t run out of items, and that boxes are not lost or misplaced along the way,” says Beck. “Phish fans are extremely loyal and it’s important to us that we keep them happy.”

The WaterWheel Foundation turned to Truecount for inventory management assistance during the kick-off of the Phish summer tour. Partnering with WaterWheel leadership, Truecount implemented a lightweight, easily portable solution, donating the software and Truecount staff time for deploying and implementing. Truecount used Champion tags, donated by Checkpoint, for tagging.

Truecount’s solution for event merchandisers comes packaged in a Pelican Case making it easy to ship ahead or to be hand-carried by the event team in their truck or van as they follow the tour.

Truecount CEO Zander Livingston, who has a background in the music industry, says that event merchandisers face significant inventory management challenges that are unique to their industry.

“The variables are constantly changing,” says Livingston. “Event merchandise is in perpetual motion, which must be continuously counted and tracked as it transits from venue to venue, warehouses and distribution centers. There’s an ongoing process of receive and pack-out, set-up and pack-in. Trucks are loaded and unloaded. Items can get left in the truck, or at the venue. Turnovers of inventory are fast, with fans constantly handling the merchandise and disturbing the displays. The rapid-paced, unstructured environment is perfect for the functionality and enabling features item-level RFID brings to merchandise counting and tracking processes.”

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