AIMS 360, the fashion industry’s leading apparel software company, announced that AIMS customers can now start creating fashion RFID tags and labels that may be required by major trading partners in the near future. Los Angeles based company Progressive Label and AIMS360 have collaborated on this effort allowing clothing manufacturing and apparel wholesalers to take their existing UPC numbers within the AIMS 360 software, place them into to Progressive Labels proprietary system, and generate an EPC number. This EPC number is then embedded into a garments RFID tag or label which then helps track everything from manufacturing of the good, to its distribution location and retail location up to the sale of the item.
In January 2004 Wal-Mart began trials with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the supply chain and mandated that the top 100 suppliers to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club start tagging pallets and cases with RFID enabled labels (Smart Labels). In 2011 Former Apple Exec Ron Johnson was made J.C. Penney CEO. His vision was to utilize “Item Level” RFID tagging and have a roving sales team armed with iPads to check you out. This was the first major push for RFID that affected many garment manufacturers on a large scale. The problem was that his timing was off. The economic downturn of 2008 put J.C. Penney’s profits in free fall. Just 17 months after he took the job of CEO Ron Johnson was let go and the RFID initiative was scaled back. AIMS 360 & Progressive Label have embraced the latest RFID technology for the apparel industry.
How RFID is Used
The apparel industry is required by retailers selling their goods to use passive RFID. These are either put on an adhesive label and placed on an existing tag or layered in to a tag to be used as a price ticket or in addition to the price ticket. The RFID portion of the Smart Label/ Tag is called the inlay; the inlay is comprised of an IC chip and an antenna. The IC chip contains the memory and the circuitry to transmit and receive the information to and from the memory that stores the data. The antenna connects to the chip and receives and sends the radio signal from and to the RFID signal source.
RFID in the Apparel Industry
Different retailers have different ways of implementing RFID so smart labels/ tags have to be approved by the retailers requesting them. What gets encoded in a smart label RFID chip is called the EPC (Electronic Product Code) number. The EPC standard in use today for item level identification was developed by the GS1 and is called the SGTIN-96 (Serialized Global Trade Identification Number- 96 bit).
Retailers require compliance with this standard and could change in the future to a different standard. The EPC is a modern version of the UPC (Universal Product Code) that was developed for retail sales in the 70’s. Like the UPC, the EPC number is just a number and is meaningless if that number is not tied in to a database that relates other bits of information to that EPC number. In its simplest form the EPC number can be described as a UPC number with a serial number attached to it. In the SGTIN-96 standard the serial number is a 38 bit number (38 position binary number). This allows for over 274 billion unique serial numbers that can be assigned to individual items.
RFID Compliance for the Apparel Industry
EPC number management is the responsibility of each manufacturer, the problem is that most existing apparel manufacturing management software don’t have the capability to manage a serial number as large an EPC number. A service solution from fashion software AIMS 360 and Progressive Label, Inc. can take your existing UPC number and create an EPC number using the standards outlined by the GS1. The GS1’s UPC to EPC conversion formula is programmed in to their FlashTrack ordering system for labels and tags. This value added service creates EPC numbers by customer.
AIMS 360, a widely used apparel manufacturing management software sends the information to Progressive Label to get RFID smart labels printed/encoded. Also, Progressive Label has recently announced FlashTrack RFID, a system that can be installed in the manufacture’s warehouse to print and encode on demand utilizing the EPC number management features.
AIMS 360 apparel software and Progressive Label have made RFID implementation for apparel manufactures easy.