New Balance will launch an item-level RFID pilot at one of its corporate stores beginning in March, says Frank Cornelius, advanced manufacturing engineer at the athletic shoe maker.
Under the pilot, New Balance will put RFID tags on each shoe box that makes its way through its Lawrence, Mass. store, which is near its manufacturing and distribution facilities. Once the tags are applied Cornelius notes that the company will take inventory daily with RFID and do a count manually to check accuracy.
Cornelius, speaking at a National Retail Federation panel on RFID, says the goal is to better track inventory to find gaps of missing data such as the time a pair of shoes left the back room and was sold from the shelf. The pilot will run for six months. Daily inventory tracking could be a boon for New Balance since it currently counts its goods every six months. New Balance will use software from Vue Technology to get item-level data.
New Balance, unlike many companies, is starting its RFID pilots with item-level tracking. Since New Balance doesn't sell its shoes at Wal-Mart and Target it hasn't had to tag case and pallets.
"For our purposes, all the ROI would be in item-level tracking," says Cornelius. "We have a highly-automated distribution system so we don't see huge benefits there (with RFID)."
Under the RFID pilot in March, New Balance isn't linking its item-level tracking with its supply chain and enterprise applications. Cornelius noted that New Balance is currently shopping for a new point of sale system should the pilot be successful.