The retailer is using RFID to improve shipping accuracy and productivity at a merchandise-returns center in Atlanta.
Sears Holdings Corp. has begun to use radio-frequency identification technology for both unique and traditional supply-chain applications.
For the past year, the department-store chain has been testing RFID at an Atlanta returns center that handles returned merchandise. Beginning next month, Sears will start testing RFID to track new appliances moving from distribution centers to 3,800 stores.
Sears also will test RFID to track appliances shipped to its stores.
Sears plans to have RFID in full production at its 280,000-square-foot Atlanta returns center by Sept. 30, with the remaining five centers to follow within a year. With RFID, Sears is able to reduce incorrect placements of pallets containing return-merchandise, which can result in pallets being put on the wrong trucks. Products come into the returns center on pallets, where they're separated and put on new pallets according to where they're to be shipped. Each new pallet receives an RFID tag with a tracking number. Software keeps tabs on each time a pallet is moved.
Sears uses active and passive RFID equipment and tags from Intermec Technologies Corp. Logistics company Genco designed the forklift software and the real-time warehouse location software, which ties into an Oracle database where product information is stored.
Active RFID tags, which take direction from radio-frequency signals bouncing off antennas on the ceiling, direct a forklift operator on where to place a pallet. The system replaces the need for an operator to get off a forklift to scan products with a bar-code reader.
That has resulted in improved operator productivity, according to Sears. Says William Littlejohn, manager of project operations at Sears: "We're still in the process of doing the analysis and gathering the data, but we can see a distinct difference between facilities that don't have RFID-enabled shipping processes with those that do."