Some notes about RFID in Italian fashion supply chain


The following is the outcome of a first analysis about RFID adoption in Italy (Internet based) and some (few) interviews with technology experts involved in real pilots.

Few references:

-          Case history LiuJo: DI511-040 (en)



eBIZ aims to tackle issues related with data transmission that hamper (or support) intercompany collaborations; thus here are few notes about how RFID in the Italian fashion supply chain is expected to impact on such theme.

A. Mainly applications seems to be related with finished products (or at least complete of all the parts, eventually waiting for treatments like ironing or packaging), not fabric or single parts.

B. At a first view, benefits along the supply chain arise from a better internal management inside the main organization (main contractor of the subcontractors); benefits for partners come thanks to a better management of its internal logistics (better performance at the doorways: less errors, faster operations…) and not from a stronger integration between their IT systems (with few exceptions) .

For example subcontractors are requested to stick the smart labels as they did with the traditional ones so that good come to warehouses already ‘tagged’.

Regarding retail, in many cases the shops are owned ones; nevertheless, in theory, the main barrier for multibrand shops seems to be  organizational rather than technological (do not know if different implementations of Gen 2 with different tags have optimization problems when read at the retail, for example for different antennas, packaging or whatever else).

C. The adopted specification is Iso 18000-6C, Epc Class 1 Gen 2.  Being EPC code based on a part related to model-size-color (or model-variant) plus a progressive serial it allows the unique identification;
outside the producer, at the retail organization for example, its number requires to be reconciliated to the values of ‘model’ and ‘variant’ (usually this mapping should be transmitted as ‘catalogue’ information).

D. Increasingly in the future, with a large diffusion of many-to-many supply chains the systematic characterization of the features of each tag model in relationship with specific requirements by product or packaging category will became more and more relevant.


QUESTION: due to the large number of possible combinations between model and variants in eBIZ-TCF some companies claimed the risk of a shortage of available product id numbers (GTIN) and preferred, for internal movements, to adopt internal proprietary coding. Is it know any cases of EPC codes based on non GS1 conformant coding?



Three main focal aspects for eBIZ


A.      Associating product item and EPC code

It is a crucial aspect where costs and error risk must be minimized; there are more models of operation;

  • A first choice is between ‘writing’ the EPC code to the tag internally by ourselves or through an external service
  • A second choice is about sticking the tags to the product item internally or through an external service..


Specifically, when the tags are written by an external service it is reasonable that the main contractor has to  

  • send to the label writer instructions (order): how many smart labels for each product cosde (identifying combination model-variant) and starting from which progressive serial number,
  • send to the label writer instructions about dispatching them to the subcontractors that will produce the goods (dispatch request): consignee, quantity for each product code,
  • possibly receive information (dispatch advice) about the dispatching of the smart labels: for each product code the list of individual serials or range of values


When smart labels are stuck by the subcontractor, he has to

  • receive the smart labels and related instructions (might be in an electronic format or less))
  • communicate to the main contractor the quantity of items dispatched grouped by product code (model-variants) and related EPC codes (dispatch advice);  the individual serial numbers (the serial part of the EPC code or the TID) is mandatory for sure when anti-counterfeiting, grey channels or any kind of traceability is required.


how much the lack of electronic data exchange in smart label production is critical for the companies regarding

  • a.      instructions from main contractor to the smart label writer  (transfer of info about quantity and epc codes)
  • b.      instructions from smart label producer about dispatching towards subcontractors
  • c.       dispatch advice from the smart label producer about generated EPC codes (possibly lists of serial number)


B. Internal logistics.

From the eBIZ point of view the main critical point is the delivery of goods and the related packing list (quantity per each model and variant), where the electronic packing list is essential in order to reconciliate the packing list, the really delivered goods and the expected goods.

Presently companies seems not interested in single item serial number identification; the approach could change when applications for anti-counterfeiting or for tracking management will be in place.

QUESTION: in a near future is it advisable that companies have to receive back from the TID or univocal serial number an electronic list of serial numbers before really receiving the goods?

C. External logistics.

Usual operations involving subcontractors are related to production advancement, logistical operations, inventories.

Usual operations involving retail are related to logistical operations, inventories, sales reports, services related to replenishment or never out of stock or surrender of goods.

For the retailer the main advantage from RFID is at the goods delivery and, possibly, through the activation of  services for eShop or ‘Shopping Experience’.
They are ‘internal’ benefits that, on the other hand,  enable retail to supply feedbacks to the producer (usually they do not supply information about sales, for example, or they do not get a never out of stock service).

From the eBIZ perspective (identification of information to be exchanged to support RFID based business activities) the following are relevant points:

-          Logistical movements (dispatch advice, receiving advice) including serial numbers; they might be explicitly listed or expressed as ranges of values (EPC from gtin-x to gtin-x+n)

-          Inventories (inventory report and inventory movement) and sales reports (sales report) analogously

-          Surrender of goods must be associated to their serial codes

-          Master data mapping EPC codes and description  in order to explicitate models, color variants and size to obtain the assortment in stock; in reality models, color variants and size are information already present in the existing eBusiness documents (catalogues with ‘anagraphic data’), but are poorly used.



List of eBIZ downstream ebusiness documents that should be considered for any update:

  • Despatch Advice Delivery Based
  • Despatch Advice Package Based
  • Instruction for returns
  • Inventory report
  • Inventory movement report
  • Receiving Advice Delivery Based
  • Receiving Advice Package Based
  • Returns advice
  • Sales report
  • Catalogue


List of eBIZ upstream documents

  • Despatch Advice
  • Despatch request
  • Inventory report


QUESTION: in a near future is it advisable that companies will be interested to receive information about TID or univocal serial number an electronic list of serial numbers when dealing with inventoris, sales reports or surrender of goods?

QUESTION: when hardware specifications are not coming from the retail but autonomously decided by the producers is there any problem of non-optimal performance while reading different models of tag (being Gen 2 compliant)?


D. Which data for the RFID in fashion messages?

In general, RFID information are needed in inventory documents (such as "Inventory report", " Sales report ", ...)  and in transport documents (such as "Dispatch Advice", "Receiving Advice", ...).
The RFID information that should be possible to have in these documents are:

- the EPC serial code used for tracing the item instances (SGTIN-96, for example)
- the "Tag IDentifier" (TID) wired in the chip.  This second item could be relevant when dealing with anti-counterfeiting initiatives.

This information could be provided following one of these approach:

1.      by specifying each "EPC code" and the "Tag IDentifier" (TID) wired in the chip related to each item having an RFID;  that is for example a list of items (SKUs) in my warehouse.

2.      by specifying one or more range of "EPC codes" related to a set of items, each one having an RFID. In this case the TID is not required.

This is less usual but in some cases it has been claimed as useful: when I am sending a lot of items from the manufacturer to the producer (the company that will store them and send to retail organisations)

QUESTION: do you agree with this approach? is the representation by ranges useful? is the TID data useful at this stage?


Linkedin RFID for Fashion group (italian), daddressing use of  RFID for the Fashion industry.





Research Laboratories with activity addressed to RFID for fashion in Italy

LAB#ID (univ. Carlo Cattaneo) www.liuc.it
RFID LAB (univ. Parma)  www.rfidlab.unipr.it
LOGISLAB (polo univ. Prato)  www.logislab.it