RFID Talk Blog

Guest blog: Patrick Javick, VP of Industry engagement, GS1 US

Patrick Javick, vice president of industry engagement for GS1 US, has been busy spreading the word about the increased adoption of RFID technology in retail and “source-to-store” visibility in the apparel supply chain. One of his recent presentations was at the RFIDLab Finland’s annual Spring Seminar in Helsinki. Patrick shared his thoughts with RFID 24-7 about the state of RFID in the apparel and general merchandise sectors, recent developments, and what we can expect in the future.

Can you discuss the geographic market for deploying RFID? What region is winning the race to deployment?

“The activity in the U.S. has been exponentially larger than that in any other region around the world, especially when you have major retailers that are in various stages of deployment. In addition, you now have additional retailers testing the technology. The growth has been phenomenal and it’s contagious. As one retailer looks at it, others are peeking around the corner to monitor what the leaders are doing to make sure they are not falling too far behind.”

Patrick Javick, VP of Industry Engagement for GS1 US

What are retailers focusing on at this point?

“With the spike in the current deployments and the publicity around those deployments, you now have additional retailers looking to build a business case internally. Whether they are ready to move forward with a pilot or full implementation, retailers are building a business case to see how RFID can work within their organization, including the products that they sell and the way they go to market with those products in the store.”

Are retailers still playing the waiting game when it comes to RFID?

“We’ve definitely heard a lot more interest from various retailers. It’s much different from a year ago when most secondary retailers were sitting back saying we’ll wait. Well, it seems like they don’t want to wait any more and they want to get engaged with the technology. We see this first hand through the interest we’ve had in our GS1 EPC Item Level Readiness Program. Leading retailers and brands are coming to us for the tools, education and community support that we provide.”

It seems like the focus has shifted from the store level to the entire supply chain.

“A lot of it has to do with the messaging out there — the “source to store” terminology that we brought to the market has really helped to emphasize that this isn’t just a technology leveraged in the store or in distribution or at the point of manufacture. RFID can be leveraged across the entire supply chain and it adds value with all partners. Source-to-store visibility is the ability to see and act on information about your product from its origin to the retail floor. You have access to the critical information you need about your product every step of the way, such as where the materials in your product came from, where your product is, where it’s been, where it’s going, and why – and what conditions it has been through.

“In the early going we were focused heavily on the store. Now that a few of the retailers have deployed, the talk about source to store and the visibility you can get has really triggered greater interest internationally, particularly from areas where apparel manufacturing occurs.”

Aside from the U.S., where is the rest of the action taking place?

“We still see Germany as the leading country in Europe. A lot of the companies engaged in Germany and Europe tend to be either the brand owner that has its own stores, or smaller stores at this point. The major retailers in Europe have been slower to adopt as compared to the U.S., where it has been the major retailers driving adoption and bringing the suppliers with them. In Europe it’s been the suppliers and the smaller retailers pushing ahead, and it’s almost like the department stores are playing catch up.

“But we’re starting to see definite interest from the larger retailers. You hear names like (French retailer) Galeries Lafayette and other major names are starting to look into it and get up to speed on understanding what the technology is all about.”

Anything happening in the Middle East?

“We’ve seen smaller pockets of interest, but a lot of the production in apparel is taking place in the Middle East. Asia is losing some of its production to places like India, so they’ve been focusing a lot more on the manufacturing side and utilizing the technology from the point of manufacture, into the DCs and to the brands in the U.S. So it’s very similar to what we’re seeing in Asia, where China and Hong Kong are heavily focused on EPC for the manufacturing side of things.”

Tell us about the Hong Kong Item Level RFID Forum taking place next month.

“Last year we had 90 participants from 49 brands and retailers, and we’re hoping to grow that this year. The event is being hosted by GS1 Hong Kong on Aug. 9 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. Last year the discussion was really about how do you spell RFID and EPC? They were not that aware of what was occurring with the technology. This year our intent is still on education, but we’re going a little further. We’re going to focus on how manufacturers can leverage RFID from the field to the processing plant, to making the rolls of fabric, then from the cutting process to finishing, shipping and logistics for moving goods to the U.S. market.

“Retailers and brand owners will share their business cases and ILT implementation “roadmaps, ” Hong Kong vendor partners will discuss their ILT solutions and contract manufacturers will give their expectations for the future of ILT. We’re also planning site visits to local production facilities involved in item level tagging. We’re trying to educate Hong Kong vendors and retailers that this is not just a cost of doing business, and that there is an opportunity where you can not only meet a requirement, but also leverage the technology. That’s just starting to resonate with them.”

Research conducted by the University of Arkansas RFID Center has helped to accelerate deployment. What’s the Center working on now?

“Phase III of the research at the University of Arkansas is focusing on further use cases for RFID, specifically electronic proof of delivery where a brand owner can verify that the retailer received the 100 blue shirts shipped to them. The intent is to focus on that verification of the good shipped and proof of delivery so that vendors maybe get paid faster because retailers receive items more accurately. We’re also looking to potentially reduce claims processes as part of charge backs because you now have visibility into the data and the actual items that are shipped and received. This is possible now because you have 100 percent visibility into the boxes.

“Some exciting changes are happening this fall at the RFID Research Lab. They are opening a new dedicated building – substantially larger than the existing one – and designed to be a “concept center” with mock retail formats, including a department store, grocery, pharmacy and distribution/manufacturing. The grand opening will be held the week of September 10, in conjunction with the annual RFID Forum hosted at the facility.”

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