ODYSSEY: The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

What Clothing and Textiles Suppliers Should Know about Item-Level RFID

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Aug 28, 2018 @ 17:08 PM

Military helmets provided following item-level RFID requirements

 

We’ve written about the value of item-level radio frequency identification (ILRFID) across different types of industries, but for makers of clothing or textiles for the federal government, item-level RFID has become vitally important.

Item-level RFID tagging identifies and tracks unique assets, allowing companies to better understand inventory levels and locations. RFID in general has gained in popularity – in fact, research found the total RFID market had an estimated worth of $11.2 billion in 2017, and estimated that more than 18 billion tags were sold. This amounts to a growth rate of 20% compared to the prior year.

Why item-level RFID is important for clothing and textiles producers

While there are RFID standards for the case and pallet level within the Department of Defense suppliers, clothing and textiles producers are required to also RFID-label items at the individual level.

Take, for example, the story of Original Footwear LLC, makers of combat boots for the U.S. Air Force. A top supplier of combat footwear since 1965, a few years ago they were asked by the DoD to begin individually RFID-tagging every pair of boots they shipped. While this required a major process change, the company was able to quickly and efficiently achieve compliance with the DoD’s requirements using Odyssey’s cloud-based software platform, RF tags, and readers.

Another example is heart&core, which was awarded a contract to supply t-shirts to DLA Troop Support. Shipping more than 90,000 items per month, with item-level RFID tracking required for each, they looked to Odyssey to help them with label printing and tracking. In addition to using Odyssey’s VIM-ASAP Console software and scanning equipment to streamline their fulfillment and shipping processes, they also use the proprietary Odyssey software that allows them to scan a box and automatically capture all the item-level information for each of the individual items it contains. Instead of having to scan item by item to meet the DoD’s item-level RFID tracking requirements, heart&core can simply scan each box once and get the required data on its contents.

Other benefits of item-level RFID

Implementing item-level RFID also helps clothing and textiles suppliers with:

  • Shipping lead times: RFID can solve speed and accuracy issues with sorting and tracking finished products and their components.
  • Accurate inventory tracking: RFID tagging provides highly accurate, precise information while greatly reducing the opportunities for human error. According to RFID Journal, this type of tracking can bring inventory accuracy up to 95% or better.
  • More efficient scanning: RFID tags can provide information more quickly than traditional tagging methods, like barcodes. This is due to the fact that they can wirelessly multiple item tags simultaneously. The technology also reduces man-hours spent scanning, which helps with cost control.

How to successfully implement item-level RFID

Adopting any new tech brings its own challenges. Item-level RFID is no different. Human error is often the culprit, since it doesn’t matter how well an RFID label is printed if someone entered incorrect information to generate it, or applied it to the wrong item.

It’s important to look for item-level RFID technology that can:

  • Generate hang-tag or item labels with integrated RFID
  • Create and associate item labels with an RFID case label
  • Produce and associate RFID case and pallet labels
  • Electronically submit the RFID shipment pedigree to VIM

But arguably more important than the technology is the provider you choose to work with. Partnering with a provider like Odyssey that specializes in working with defense suppliers can help your implementation of item-level RFID go smoothly.  

See which item-level RFID tagging solution is the best fit, and talk to the experts at Odyssey to plan your strategy.

Topics: RFID labels, Item level RFID

RFID is abuzz

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Aug 5, 2015 @ 11:08 AM

Earlier this month we wrote a post on the necessity of a consultative approach to a company’s adoption of RFID technology. While the article outlined more specifics, the overall argument was this: each company inevitably has a set of unique needs. By consulting with those companies, learning specific needs, challenges, etc., it’s dollar_signpossible to make improvements not just to their operations, but also the operations of every other client.

            That aforementioned blog post was a response to a recent press release put out by Peltz Shoes, in which they announced they were dropping item-level RFID tracking for its inventory after six years of use. Since that press release, and our blog post, numerous outlets have taken to write about Peltz’s decision. So let’s look a little deeper into all of this, as there are some interesting things to glean.

            Our interest in this story was initially peaked based on the simple fact that the press release even existed. It’s obviously common practice for companies to issue releases when they adopt new forms of technology. The media is flooded with announcements of fortune 500 companies going digital, adopting BYOD strategies or using new, sleek devices to streamline operations. Those type announcements ultimately garner the PR companies are after. Adoption of new technology shows that companies are looking to the future, looking for better ways to connect and looking to increase profits.

            What we don’t typically see are press releases announcing the abandonment of technology. So why did Peltz go this route? Some have suggested that it was a way for the company to publicly vent their frustrations with their experience. There is certainly evidence for that based on the tone of the article, as losing money and man-hours is the most frustrating thing a company can experience, but that theory isn’t completely satisfying. A company of this size no doubt has an experienced PR department that would shy away from public outcries. A more reasonable explanation is that Peltz experienced the benefit of item-level RFID tracking, but was turned away by a few key issues. Since the media has been abuzz with stories of industry growth and expansion, perhaps they were looking to shed light on these issues in hopes that they would see resolutions and, ultimately, reacquire the technology after those resolutions came to fruition. This theory is bolstered by their concession in the final line of the release:

Peltz says that RFID is a great tool, but for all of the inaccuracies and associated high costs, it will not be a viable solution until a significant manufacturing change at the wholesale level occurs
          One thing to note about this theory is that it’s only viable if looked at through the eyes of Peltz. Some of their issues, as we mentioned in the previous post, come down to user error and therefore have already been solved, again, with a consultative approach to adoption. Here’s another example from the release:

 If manufacturers applied RFID labels at the factory inside of the actual product, it would be much more beneficial. Doing so would increase inventory accuracy straight from the factory, but would also have the added benefits of preventing mismates and theft.

            Now we’re getting somewhere. This is, perhaps unknowingly, Peltz at their most transparent in the release. Not only have they identified a problem in their process, but they’ve also provided a solution. The question begs, why not apply labels during the manufacturing process? This may as well be the opening Team_integrationargument for why processes should be tailored to companies to meet their needs.

            So what can we glean from all of this? Well, there’s no doubt that companies are looking over this release, writing up their solutions and submitting bids to Peltz. The real writing on the wall is that there’s a disconnect between the company and the Radio Frequency Identification solutions provider. No, the technology isn’t perfect. We maintain that it’s still young and evolving, but solutions providers and clients working together can, in large part, solve the issues outlined here. Consultation is a great first step, but unless service and communication is ongoing there’s no way to adjust for the changing landscape of RFID. The real story here most likely lies in the relationship between Peltz and their RFID solutions provider.

 

Topics: RFID, Item level RFID

RFID Solutions Need a Consultative Approach

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Jul 15, 2015 @ 14:07 PM

Earlier this month RFID Journal published an article titled “One Small Retailer Abandons RFID,” in which Mark Roberti discusses Peltz Shoes’ adoption and abandonment of item-level RFID tracking. In an infantile industry, where most of the news we see is on the progression of the technology, something like this stands out from the media noise, and it’s worth taking a look at.

            Peltz Shoes jumped on the item-level RFID train five years ago by tagging every box of shoes and, according to the company, saving 1,500 man-hours of labor. Sounds great, right? The results certainly mirror DoD_Sealwhat we’ve heard from other retailers using item-level tracking. So why is this particular company ditching the technology?

            One of the primary issues Peltz cites in their release is “…if an associate mistakenly puts the wrong label on a box, the inventory would not be counted correctly.” They go on to say that this mislabeling was causing unexpected labor costs because employees had to remove the incorrect tags and appropriately re-label each box. This absolutely sounds like a frustrating situation, but it also reveals a lot about why the company abandoned the technology.

            Picture this: an ice cream truck service outfits all of their trucks with new refrigerators that reduce the energy costs needed to keep their ice cream cool. A week later the company is forced to order hundreds of pounds of additional ice cream because large amounts of their current stock melted in the new refrigerators. Upon inspection it is revealed that the ice cream melted because truck drivers failed to correctly close the doors. The company, upset because of the revenue loss, gets rid of the new refrigerators and goes back to the old models.

            We’re not coming down on Peltz, merely pointing out that their press release, and their ditching of RFID, has less to do with the technology and everything to do with the people operating it or the software interface itself. If a tag is placed on the wrong box it won’t properly track the asset inside, no matter how perfect the tag is. That’s a problem because humans can’t be void of the process. Someone has to make sure tags are printed correctly, and then someone has to make sure they’re placed on the appropriate assets. A mistake there brings the entire system down.

            As crippling as human error can be to this process, there are ways to mitigate the chance of catastrophe. For example, when we built the Odyssey software we knew that not every company operates in the same way. Isoftware_integrationt would have been impossible to create a one-size-fits-all solution. So when we created Odyssey (and herein lies the value of the platform), we made sure that it was malleable enough to conform to the needs of each of our clients. That process begins by us taking a consultative approach to understanding where human error traps can occur for individual companies, solving the problem, then pushing that solution out to every client.

            We like to look at the RFID space like the Wild, Wild West. It’s a brave new frontier populated not by experts, but pioneers. The technology is in a critical state of evolution, one that requires adopters to be involved. As we look at individual companies, figure out where their issues are occurring, and create solutions, we understand that there is value to those solutions for every other company. We believe that vigilant discovery and creation of solutions, shared with all of our clients, is the key to smooth operations within the RFID space. The cliché, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” fits nicely here because of course there will be speed bumps, but that doesn’t quell the usefulness of the technology.

Topics: RFID Software, RFID, Item level RFID

Item level RFID and its far reaching impact

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 @ 10:06 AM

Last year, we wrote a couple of blogs discussing challenges with item-level RFID and different solutions companies, researchers and manufacturers were utilizing to overcome them. We also wrote about the increased adoption of smart labels as it relates to the Internet of Things and sectors outside the DoD, particularly with DoD_Sealretailers. These two topics actually go hand-in-hand really well. As adoption increases so will challenges. We’ve ensured that our software is built such that it can absorb new changes and challenges seamlessly, creating a streamlined user experience. For those using the technology outside of DoD compliance, other, more creative solutions are needed.

            Let’s start with retail. An item-level RFID inventory solution can be invaluable to a store looking to ensure they never run out, or overstock, inventory. The challenge is that a tag/reader system can be expensive for stores with multiple locations. To battle this, clothing retailer F&F is working to cut down on the man-hours it would take to scan each tag, balancing the price of the system by removing the cost of manpower going forward. Their solution is certainly out-of-the-box, but the logic is tight. Imagine you’re walking down an aisle, casually browsing cardigans, when suddenly you see a six-foot tall robot come strolling by. No, we’re not talking Terminator-looking robots; more like tall vacuum cleaners. These autonomous robots are equipped with scanners that can read tags in a 360 radius several times a week, ensuring accurate data capture.

            Another interesting article we came across brought up the idea of using item-level RFID on a smaller scale to keep track of items in an office. The writer said that he was contacted by a business manager who wanted to keep an inventory of everyday office supplies like computers, monitors, chairs, etc. The writer suggested tagging each item as well as the doorways to the rooms they were located in. He envisioned a scenario where an app on a reader would bring up a list of items in a room after the tag in the doorway was scanned. The reader could then be waved around and tell the manager if all items were present or not. Sounds great, right? Well the issue, and the point of the article, is that no such app exists; at least not on the level this man was looking to use it. So while there aren’t apps available for smaller-scale, item-level tracking, we have to assume that could be coming down the pipeline sometime soon. If radio frequency identification technology, particularly the passive kind (due to cost efficiency), continues to grow in popularity, we could be seeing all kind of advancements that allow more and more people to track assets easily.

            It’s important to know, however, that while robots are neat and flashy and provide a solution that’s sure to grab headlines, sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference. For example, if you read our blog post last month you saw us comment on a particular solution to WAWF being renamed to iRAPT. The outside solution was a training manual costing hundreds of dollars and time necessary for employees to read dollar_signthrough it. Don’t get us wrong; iRAPT is critical to DoD vendors as it’s the method in which they submit RFID and UID data for compliance purposes. Our point, as you can read in the blog, is that if vendors are using DoD-approved software solutions, such as Odyssey, then nothing changes. Vendors can keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

            While we wish we had more autonomous robots walking around the Odyssey offices, we’re confident that our DoD compliance software solutions enables vendors to submit this information electronically by marshaling unique identifiers, providing management and incorporating data within MIL-STD 129 R and MIL-STD 130N interior and exterior label compliance. We also know that we’re pioneers in a young and ever-changing industry, and we need to constantly be on the forefront of adaptation.

Topics: DoD approved software, WAWF, MIL-STD 129R, UID, MIL-STD 130 N, Item level RFID, iRAPT, Internet of Things

DoD RFID tags and the software that makes it all work

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 12:05 PM

As radio frequency identification usage continues to increase, and the technology continues to make its way into headlines, we’ve noticed a growing trend in the application of DoD labels and DoD RFID tags. Specifically, RFID is being implemented as an inventory-tracking tool. We’ve previously blogged about clothing retailers, grocery stores and other corporations utilizing tags and readers to control their inventory on an individual level (here, and here). These item-level RFID solutions that offer tracking looks to be the future of product management because it allows singularRFID integrated process assets to be tracked with identification exclusive to those items. Whether it be a pair of shoes or a t-shirt, more and more retailers are using RF solutions to keep track of how much inventory they have, and where that inventory is located at any given time during its lifetime.

            A recent article in RFID Journal announced the integration of item-level tracking to manage uniforms at the Fort Leonard Wood Recruit Training Center. The article specifically discusses the training center’s use of tags and readers when ordering uniform items from the DLA. With the exception of low-cost items such as socks, all assets are individual tagged and tracked to ensure orders to the training center are both accurate and efficiently filled. Once on site, the tags allow individual trainees to pack duffle bags with necessary uniform items. Readers placed at a checkout counter ensure that the trainees have all necessary items before they depart. It’s a solution that makes managing tens of thousands of individual assets possible.

            Despite the timeliness of the article, item-level radio frequency identification isn’t a new technology. Another article written in RFID Journal focused on our Odyssey defense commerce solution software being used at Wellco, a manufacturer of combat boots that provides assets to the U.S. Air Force. This article, written in 2013, describes the process of tags being affixed to individual pairs of boots before being loaded onto cartons that are also given tags. These carton tags are married to the individual Item tags on each pair of boots that comprise the carton Item Level RFID solutionsthrough a process called aggregation. Cartons are then placed on pallets at the tune of about 16 cartons per pallet. You can probably guess the next step. An RFID label is then attached to the pallet and married to all the tags contained within that pallet. The boots can then easily be shipped in bulk while allowing workers to track them on an individual level once they arrive at their destination.

            Wellco’s item-level integration came as a necessity in early 2012 when the DoD requested tags on every pair of boots. So while the change was a necessity, the DoD knew what they were doing asking them to switch to this system. Previously, Wellco, and similar suppliers, would need to both receive and fill orders manually, electronically entering the data. With the sheer volume of boots moving at any given time, manual tracking welcomed the opportunity for errors, some requiring significant amounts of time to locate and rectify. By utilizing Odyssey’s cloud based software platform, along with RF tags and readers, the entire operation’s efficiency increased significantly.

            While Odyssey exclusively operates within the defense industry, we recognized that the benefits of item level tracking via software_integrationradio frequency identification are far-reaching. We live in a connected world, one where people and assets can be moved to different continents in mere hours. Because of this connectivity, both DoD suppliers and retailers are in positions to move massive amounts of inventory to locations all around the world. By using passive RF technology that inventory is assured to arrive in its accurate physical and corresponding data entirety (barring an external incident during the shipping process), in a manner that takes human error out of the equation. As the popularity of the technology continues to grow, we foresee more companies seeing the benefits of RFID for internal purposes and integrating it into their own asset/property management functions. We’re excited to be among the pioneers of this growth as organizations begin to reverse the current positive externalities associated with radio frequency identification.

Topics: DoD approved software, dod compliance, RFID Software, RFID, MIL-STD 129R, Item level RFID, Passive RFID

MIL-STD-129 RFID software expands its reach

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Jun 6, 2013 @ 16:06 PM

The below excerpt is from an article written by Claire Swedberg and featured in the June 3rd online edition RFID Journal. If you would like to review the article in it's original publication and entirety please click here

This piece highlights the efficiency and compliance an integrated solution offers your organization. MIL-STD-129 Defense requirements can be difficult to master but finding a working solution shouldn't. RFID software can have many applications so it is important to balance the requirements of the customer with the needs and capacity of the organization.

The purpose of a software solutions is to allow users the ability to effectively complete tasks in the most efficient manner possible. Far too often the words 'software' and 'solution' are intertwined; as to suggest that all software is a solution

The size of an organization shouldn't dictate its accessiblity to solutions either. Organizations of all sizes and volume of business, agree integrated solutions are far and away the best way to maximize the efforts of their team!

When your working in a niche space such as the Department of Defense (DoD) DLA Troop Support commerce arena one solution providing integration between DLA Dibbs; Vendor Shipment Module (VSM), VIM-ASAP, Wide Area Workflow (WAWF), and the UID registery makes sense.

RFID Gets Boots on the Ground for Air Force

Wellco is using a solution from Odyssey to create passive UHF RFID labels for every pair of boots, case and pallet, and confirms shipping orders are correct by reading those tags before loading goods onto trucks.

by Claire Swedberg
For the past year, Wellco, a Tennessee manufacturer of combat boots, has been ensuring the accuracy of its shipments, as well as complying with a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) mandate, by applying radio frequency identification labels to every pair of boots that it ships to the U.S. Air Force. The company is reading the labels attached to those boots, as well as to the cases and pallets in which they are packed, in order to confirm that the shipments are correct.
Wellco has been a supplier of combat footwear since 1965. The present generation of combat boots come with a rubber-based sole and a rugged high-traction rubber tread. The company recently opened a new facility in Morristown, Tenn., where its boots are packaged prior to being shipped to military agencies.
To fulfill an order, Wellco packs six tagged pairs of boots in a cardboard box and passes the carton down a conveyor, where two sets of RFID readers and antennas capture the tag ID numbers.
To track those boots, Wellco is employing a software and RFID hardware package supplied by defense commerce solutions company Odyssey. As part of that package, Odyssey is providing Avery Dennison ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, Zebra Technologies R110Xi printers and a Printronix SL4M printer to encode the tags. Odyssey's cloud-based hosted RFID software, known as Visual Shipment Builder, then stores data regarding each order, and about every pair of boots being packed in that order that is linked to a tag number. The information can be accessed by the supplier, and can be submitted electronically to the DOD's Wide Area Workflow (WAWF) system. The RFID-based system also includes Alien Technology readers to interrogate tags attached to cases loaded with goods filling a specific order, according to David Mason, a senior network administrator at Tactical Holdings Operations, Wellco's parent company. MIL 129
At the end of the conveyor, a video screen confirms that the boots chosen are correct for the order being filled, and the system prompts a Zebra printer-encoder to generate an adhesive RFID label for that carton.
While the boots are assembled mostly offsite, the products undergo final manufacturing processes onsite, and are then shipped out to the Air Force. At four workstations, operators apply laces, visually confirm the size and style to match the order, and press the prompt in the Odyssey software to print and encode the labels on the Printronix printer. The workers then take those labels and attach one to each pair of boots, on its laces, after which the pairs are placed in individual boxes, with six such boxed pairs loaded into a case.
****click here for remainder of article****

 


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Topics: DoD approved software, RFID, Wide Area Workflow, RFID Software, Item level RFID

ITEM LEVEL RFID for any Environment

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 09:05 AM

We thought we would share the latest announcement of a contract extension and product expansion within the ODYSSEY network of customers. UNICOR The Federal Prison Industries clothing and textile division utilizes the ODYSSEY platform because it has the flexibility to meet internal and external requirements.

Much like your organization, UNICOR is focused on work-flow process, integrity of data, flexibility of application and a scalable solution that allows them to efficiently and effectively meet their customer requirements.

Please keep an eye out for our feature that will focus on the importance of working with the General Services Adminstration (GSA). GSA provides an opportunity that most DoD contractors are not aware of. The article will discuss the process and advantage to working with the government's largest contract management and procurement office.

UNICOR Renews Contract and Adds Functionality with ODYSSEY

UNICOR to add ODYSSEY’s item level RFID solutiondescribe the image

CINCINNATI ODYSSEY, the leader in defense commerce solutions and only Department of Defense (DoD) commerce solution provider delivering an integrated, cross-departmental workflow process utilizing an efficient and effective cloud-based platform, is pleased to announce that it has renewed its contract with UNICOR’s (Federal Prison Industries) clothing and textile division.  

UNICOR has extended its existing license with ODYSSEY and will continue to use ODYSSEY’S Software as a Service (Saas) model. ODYSSEY’s SaaS platform provides system management for DoD contracts, RFID compliance and shipment data submission. Additionally, UNICOR purchased new licenses and began utilizing ODYSSEY’s item level RFID solution as an add-on to existing modules. This functionality allows UNICOR to efficiently address evolving DoD RFID compliance requirements. UNICOR has utilized ODYSSEY for the past six years with more than 20 facilities using the ODYSSEY platform.

“With our scalable SaaS platform, our customers can more efficiently and effectively meet customer requirements as well as customize a process that works within their particular IT environment,” said James Lusk, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, ODYSSEY. “We are thrilled that UNICOR has chosen ODYSSEY for continued services for DoD RFID compliance, and contract management.”

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For more information about ODYSSEY and their defense commerce solutions, visit http://www.odysseydcs.com/.

About UNICOR

The mission of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI) is to protect society, reduce crime, aid in the security of the Nation’s prisons and decrease taxpayer burden, by assisting inmates with developing vital skills necessary for successful reentry to society. Through the production of market-priced quality goods and services, FPI provides job training and work opportunities to inmates, while minimizing impact on private industry and labor. For more information, visit http://www.unicor.gov/.

About ODYSSEY

ODYSSEY was founded in 2006, intent on being a one-of-a-kind Department of Defense (DoD) commerce solution provider. Seven years later, ODYSSEY stands as the only provider delivering an integrated, cross-departmental workflow process utilizing an efficient and effective cloud-based platform. ODYSSEY has emerged as the leader in defense commerce solutions and the preferred platform for hundreds of DoD commercial suppliers, non-profit government partners and federal agencies. Partners of ODYSSEY have transformed their DoD commerce by streamlining the entire workflow process into a review environment rather than data entry. For more information, visit http://www.odysseydcs.com/

 

Topics: DoD approved software, RFID, Wide Area Workflow, WAWF Login, dod compliance, RFID Software, Item level RFID, VIM-ASAP