Selfridges is trialling Radio Frequency Identity (RFID) tags to track the stock movements of food brands.
The department store is using RFID to track the inbound and outbound movements of 20 vehicles and 120 temperature-controlled food containers from its Hams Hall national distribution centre in the West Midlands.
Selfridges is conducting the trial with Exel, to which it outsourced supply chain management two years ago. It is using 'active' RFID tags from Wavetrend Technologies which can be read at distances of up to 2m.
The trial will track vehicles and containers so that when they enter the loading bays of its Manchester, London and Birmingham stores the RFID readers can detect what produce is on a pallet and automatically update Selfridges' stock management systems.
Each loading bay door has an active tag reader built in that reads the RFID tags within a few metres of the delivery bay.
Exel has also designed visual basic, interactive touch screen kiosks for the loading bays in each of the stores and the distribution centre.
The kiosks link to the loading bay RFID readers and confirm to staff that all the stock has arrived.
With outbound stock, the kiosk loads information onto the vehicle so that stock levels can be cross checked when it arrives at the next destination.
Selfridges is also working with Exel to integrate the RFID trial into the firm's PKMS warehouse management system from Manhattan Associates early next year.
Paul Richardson, business director for retail services Europe at Exel, said: "If RFID is really going to add value it needs to be part of an end-to-end supply chain solution."
The trial is ongoing and has been designed to explore the future opportunities offered by RFID, including product tracking to and from the stores.
Exel also hopes to extend the trial to improve stock visibility, increase security and track dispatch and delivery processes within Selfridges' stores.
House of Fraser is considering trialling electronic article surveillance tags in next spring, according to Exel, which began a five-year contract to manage the department stores' distribution centre this July.
The trial is expected to commence in May 2004, and Exel will work with House of Fraser suppliers to apply tags at point of production.
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