VF Imagewear LSA (licensed sports apparel) is a part of VF Corporation, the word’s largest apparel company, and joins VF Corporation brands such as Vanity Fair, Lee, and Wrangler. VF Imagewear provides uniform and career apparel programs for organizations as well as supplies retailers with licensed sports (e.g. MLB, NFL) apparel. VF Imagewear is one of Wal-Mart’s top 100 suppliers, in fact, and because of that was required to identify cases of certain SKUs (stock keeping units) with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags as part of the retailer’s RFID compliance mandate.
To comply with the mandate, VF Imagewear began looking for an RFID solution. When considering RFID printers, the company had a head start. It was already a customer of an RFID printer vendor, Paxar, using the vendor’s non-RFID printers for apparel marking. VF Imagewear tested Paxar’s RFID printers along with two other vendors’ printers and ultimately chose Paxar. “We performed extensive testing of RFID equipment and labels before choosing Paxar’s products,” says Jim Jackson, VF’s director of vendor relationship management. “The labels provided by Paxar, and run through Paxar’s Monarch 9855 RFID printer/encoder, were virtually 100% readable.” For the RFID reader component of its solution, VF Imagewear chose Alien readers.
VF Imagewear deployed the RFID solution in its DC where it packages and ships retailers’ orders. Workers in the DC (distribution center) manually pack each carton with clothing, then send the carton down a conveyor line to be sealed, labeled, and shipped. VF Imagewear first dedicated 3 of its 15 lines to RFID, placing an RFID printer and reader at each line. With the system, a 4-inch by 6-inch RFID label is affixed to each carton; the cartons then continue down the line past an RFID reader. The carton is then placed on a pallet for shipping.
The RFID solution VF Imagewear put in place met Wal-Mart’s January 2005 deadline, and VF Imagewear has since expanded its use of RFID. It now dedicates 6 of its 15 lines to RFID labeling and shipping. VF Imagewear also is in the process of switching to Gen 2-compliant RFID labels. Because the company’s Paxar RFID printers are multiprotocol, VF Imagewear only had to switch the printers to the Gen 2 setting and order Gen 2 RFID label stock.