Introduction: I sat down with Michael (Mike) Shabet, an industry leader in enterprise RFID ecosystems to catch up with him on the state of RFID in source manufacturing in retail, and BOY did I learn a lot!
Dana: Mike, we’ve known each other a long time, and you’ve always been considered an RFID pioneer. Why is RFID finally becoming a viable solution for retailers and consumer brand goods who sell to the retailers?
Mike: Dana, it’s so ironic to think about how radio frequency technology advanced from applications used in medical research, defense and technical engineering into real-world supply chains like retail, automotive, and pharmaceutical…just to name a few! I believe the adoption is inevitable when you consider that adding RFID to existing barcode labels and tags enables instantaneous pick-and-pack reading, identifies mis-encoded product from progressing through the system as well as validating and verifying multi-unit orders in seconds. The amount of time that is saved and the amount of errors that are caught early is usually the ROI that substantiates an ecosystem implementation tying into existing enterprise software such as CGS Blue Cherry, Manhattan Associates’ WMS, Infor and Oracle SIM to name the primary integration capabilities.
Dana: You said “usually”…what are the other reasons that a company would implement an RFID ecosystem?
Mike: Often the retailers, themselves, will demand RFID ecosystems as part of the product specifications. Retail has been an early adopter for mass inventory control and management. So, if a company like Jockey, for example, wants Macy’s to sell it’s socks and undergarments, then Jockey needs to incorporate an RFID sensor in their product package or tags.
Dana: Wow…even for socks and boxer shorts? Those are really basic commodity items. Who would you say is an example of a retail product that was an early adopter?
Mike: Well, Elie Tahari ASL – the premium fashion brand – comes to mind. They’ve been ahead of the curve for years when they committed to encoding ALL their products instead of simply accommodating the retailers that require RFID. Tahari ASL embraced GS1 standards for encoding EPCs (Electronic Product Codes) into tags, thereby serializing UPCs to give each piece of apparel and each accessory its own unique ID. Tahari ASL is able to control exactly what is produced by their source manufacturers before the products even ship, reducing errors such as mis-labelling, and improving order fulfillment accuracy dramatically. It also reduces chargebacks from the retailers – why allow product to arrive where it’s not been ordered? That’s yet another piece of the ROI factors that make RFID a necessary investment. Being such a reliable brand is one of the reasons that Tahari ASL products are carried by the better retailers globally. (Mike, if this isn’t true, please modify sentence)I took out “most”
Dana: So, I remember you from Avery Dennison when you were Global Sales Manager. Were you working on RFID even back then?
Mike: Absolutely, during my over 30 years at Avery Dennison I was part of the RBIS Division, and oversaw the development of the hardware, labels and tags for Avery Dennison’s RFID product offering. Going to CYBRA back in 2010 was the perfect fit, because I’d seen the progression at AD and understood how to effectively implement a turnkey RFID ecosystem. CYBRA’s been in the RFID space since 2008, so we’ve seen a lot of brands and manufacturers embrace RFID. There’s nothing more fascinating than watching thousands of cartons – each containing hundreds of individual products – racing through the CYBRA Cage and having a carton automatically picked off the conveyors because the reader detected an error. In Milliseconds, we’re able to match the actual product being shipped, picked or received against a manifest or purchase order that could contain thousands of items. CYBRA’s Edge Magic software is universally embraced because it integrates seamlessly with other enterprise solutions.
Dana: I also just learned, in speaking with you, that you are a gentleman farmer. Tell me about Sunny Meadow Farm!
Mike: Our farm in Connecticut is a labor of love of which I’m extraordinarily proud. Our Mission is to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, and free range poultry using sustainable organic methods. We are a net-zero use facility that operates an onsite farm stand, sells to local businesses, and participates in farmer’s markets. The property has been a farm since the mid 1700’s – it contains a farm house and barn complex circa 1809 that is being restored. Now that you understand why we strive for sustainability at Sunny Meadow, you can see why I embrace the sustainability of RFID!
Dana: Well, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Every time we do cross paths, I always learn something! For those of you who’d like to learn more about CYBRA’s Edge Magic systems reach out to Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org and to learn more about Sunny Meadow, go to http://www.sunnymeadow.farm/
Want to further explore RFID ecosystems?