M&S is a British value for money retailer, focused on its own label businesses, including Food, Clothing & Home, in the UK and internationally. M&S operates a family of businesses, selling high-quality, great value own-brand products in the UK and in 62 countries, from 1,519 stores and 44 websites globally. M&S pioneered the use RFID in the UK in 2004 and now has the majority of their stock (95%) RFID enabled.
M&S has long been a retailer that advocates the use of RFID but had predominantly used barcode scanning to reset their stock files on a 6-monthly basis. Although they had introduced periodic internal RFID counting of departments utilising their own colleagues and equipment, they had never externalised a full RFID count or combined it with a barcode count to provide full stock accuracy and value.
The team at M&S were looking to further increase stock file accuracy through the use of their existing RFID deployment and to ensure cost efficient operations. Improving stock file accuracy contributes towards knowing on-shelf availability which ultimately benefits M&S’s customers.
Integrating new RFID data and processes with their existing systems was considered early on in the process and involving a technical solutions provider (RAS) in their plan was key to the project’s success.
As solution providers, our objective is to develop applications and services to address retailers’ key challenges and growth plans. We demonstrated to M&S that our early entry into the RFID arena combined with our innovative hybrid counting method demonstrated the difference that we bring to the industry.
Our hybrid RFID + barcode solution enables us to present one combined stocktake file. The resultant file with combined data is formatted to the client’s specification for importing into the database as normal. Variance reporting is still available and can be incorporated into the smart cloud-based dashboard with hierarchical permissions.
RAS piloted the service in five test stores and measured the outcome against a traditional barcode stocktake. The findings overwhelmingly pointed to an increased stock file accuracy using the RFID scan process. A further trial across another five stores was initiated in order to validate the success of the first pilot.
A third phase of 70 stores were then scheduled for an RFID hybrid count as part of the Summer 2019 stocktake schedule. Stores which had a barcode stocktake in the Summer 2019 were then scheduled to receive a RFID Hybrid count in Winter/Spring 2020 culminating in over 200 further stores benefiting from the solution.
Whilst Summer 2019 RFID counts showed a marginal improvement on stock file accuracy compared to the previous barcode counts it was felt that the result could be even better with a refinement of process and reporting.
To this end RAS introduced further RFID reports, improved RFID count methodology and state of the art Denso SP1 RFID hand-held sled hardware in order to aid external auditor sign off, as well as vastly increasing the stock file accuracy in comparison to the traditional barcode count.
By combining the RAS START stock take management system and the RAS RFID solution powered by RFKeeper this has now enabled us to scale the RFID Hybrid stocktake solution nationwide utilising dedicated RFID teams.
The solution has enabled M&S to benefit from lower resource requirements, reduced external stocktake costs and it has facilitated faster counts, crucially it has also achieved their original objective of significantly increasing its stock file accuracy.
Through delivering this cost effective and accurate barcode and RFID Hybrid counting, which has included a combined bespoke reporting dashboard and reporting suite, M&S have made saving from their previous processes – the new system has already proven to be more accurate and efficient for stock replenishment purposes.
M&S has identified many other points throughout its operations to explore where RFID can continue to deliver benefits, including extending this RFID enablement to its entire supply chain which would include and benefit its manufacturers and distribution centres.
“RAS now count all the Clothing & Home stock holding using RFID once a year for M&S, with a 99.50%+ accuracy, and at a cost that is less than half that of a traditional stocktake. The deployment has supported a further improvement in our stock file accuracy which helps drive our omnichannel retailing capabilities. Improving our operational efficiency & accuracy while driving down costs is even more critical given the current retail challenges.”
Systems & Operations Manager | Subject Matter Expert, M&S