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A new era in supply chain logistics

Salpomec has pioneered trolley-less hanging garment systems, such as its Magic Tube, and other logistics solutions for the clothing industry for many years. The company has now developed an RFID technology-based solution that offers significant cost savings and other benefits for all those in the apparel logistics supply chain.

Salpomec launched an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) development project with ADT and UPM Raflatac in the autumn of 2006 to explore how apparel logistics could benefit from RFID – and a new Salpomec system, and an Apparel RFID Solution Centre to showcase it, were both launched in the first half of 2007.

The Solution Centre covers all aspects of the system – such as labelling, automatic reception and sorting, stocking, and sales follow-up – and has been designed to give potential customers a hands-on feel for what the new technology can offer.

Tags tell the whole story

Salpomec’s new system is based on providing every item of clothing with its own unique RFID tag. Once this is entered in the system, the progress of a shirt or a pair of trousers, for example, can be monitored very precisely from production through every stage of the logistics chain, all the way to the retail checkout.

The spread of global supply chains in the garment industry means that up-to-date information on products is becoming more and more important. Salpomec’s new RFID-based solution offers an excellent means to access this information accurately when and where it is needed. The first systems based on the new technology were delivered in autumn 2007.

This information includes details on all aspects of the piece of clothing in question – such as material, design, colour, and size – as well as where and when it was manufactured, and how it is to be shipped and when. Retailers, for example, can access this information through downloadable advanced shipping notices.

Alongside fabrics and manufacturing, logistics have always been a major cost factor in the garment industry, and Salpomec’s new RFID system provides a major step forward in managing this area and keeping costs in check. This is becoming more and more important in today’s world, where supply chains can be very long, often extending over a number of continents, and involve many stages that are not easily monitored using conventional logistics tools.

Key partners

UPM Raflatac contributed the underlying expertise in RFID technology, while ADT, part of Tyco Fire & Security, contributed its electronic security know-how. The latter has been particularly important in developing the anti-piracy aspects of the system, which are likely to be very interesting to major brands faced with a growing wave of fake products and grey imports.

The savings in time and money made possible by the system will benefit everyone. Retailers, for example, will have the opportunity to increase sales volumes in the knowledge that they can meet demand, and consumers will benefit because shops will be able to carry better-managed stock and tell them very precisely when the item or size they want will arrive, if it is not available now.

(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)