Revolutionizing Supply Chain with RFID and 2D Tags

A person scanning a smart watch with in-built RFID.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first retail barcode scan, we delve into the transformative power of RFID and 2D barcodes in the retail supply chain, driving innovation and efficiency.

The Evolution of Retail Supply Chain Technology

The first Universal Product Code (UPC) scan on a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum in 1974 marked the beginning of a new era in retail. This seemingly simple act sparked a wave of innovation, revolutionizing how we manage, move, and sell products globally. As retail operations grew more complex, the need for advanced tools for serialized data capture became evident. Enter serialized data carriers like the 2D barcode and RFID, enabling real-time inventory visibility and ensuring on-shelf availability for omnichannel fulfillment.

The Power of RFID in Inventory Management

RFID technology automates data capture, a valuable asset in high-volume environments like warehouses and retail stores where manual inventory tracking can be labor-intensive and prone to errors. RFID allows for fast, accurate, and automated inventory counts without the need for line-of-sight scanning. This reduces labor costs, minimizes human error, ensures fully replenished store shelves, verifies inbound and outbound shipments at the dock door, and facilitates data sharing with suppliers and trading partners.

Omnichannel Fulfillment with RFID and 2D Barcodes

As retailers continue to fulfill orders from multiple channels, RFID and 2D barcodes provide the item-level visibility needed to accurately track and manage inventory across all locations in real time. Serialized scanning at the point of sale validates sold items, minimizing issues like returns fraud and gray-market diversion. Retail giants like Walmart, Nordstrom, and Dillard’s have reported significant improvements in inventory accuracy, faster cycle counts, and reductions in out-of-stock inventory due to RFID implementation.

The Future of Supply Chain Innovation

As RFID costs continue to decrease and the technology evolves, more retailers are expected to adopt these tools and capture market share. To prepare for this shift, organizations should gather a cross-functional team, conduct a needs assessment, bring in technical expertise and infrastructure, pilot before expanding, and develop training and resources. The integration of RFID and 2D barcodes with advanced technologies like artificial intelligence promises to further transform retail supply chains, leading to greater operational efficiency, better compliance, and more satisfied customers.