Greater process efficiency and greater availability of goods – that’s what radio-frequency identification, or RFID, promises. This technology allows companies to track goods electronically along the entire process chain. All you need to do is attach an RFID transponder, a tiny computer chip with an antenna, to the products or to the product pallets. Scanning devices record the electronic product code (EPC) stored on the chip at various intervals, such as upon arrival of the goods at the store. This is then automatically recorded in the goods management system. METRO GROUP is one of the pioneers in the retail industry when it comes to integrating RFID technology into logistical processes. The Company has implemented the technology at around 400 METRO Cash & Carry locations in Germany and France, at Real and at METRO LOGISTICS.
Relieving the personnel
Other companies also use RFID technology, including fashion retailer Adler, which has been testing the technology on the sales floor since April 2012. Adler’s long-term aim is to equip up to 30 million articles per year with transponders, thus enabling it to have a better overview of current stock and to guarantee the availability of popular articles. Sales personnel will also be relieved of laborious stocktaking processes, giving them more time for in-store customer service.
Corporate social responsibility
As the process of globalisation continues unabated, the significance of corporate social responsibility has taken on a whole new meaning. What was once a subject for specialists in business ethics is now high on the agenda of companies, government ministries, municipalities and international organisations. Sustainability has become a key element in the long-term success of a company. The term “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) defines a commitment to socially and ecologically responsible corporate governance. CSR activities include a company’s pledge to protect our climate and natural resources, promote environmentally and socially sustainable products and implement good working conditions. The representation and documentation of sustainability activities is voluntary in Germany. However, an increasing number of companies now see CSR as a competitive advantage and are integrating aspects of sustainability into their strategies.
The key role of retail companies
Sustainability has also become more significant over recent years in the retail sector. Retail companies have a key function as the interface between manufacturers and consumers. Major challenges faced by retailers include food security, demographic change, and the protection of the environment and natural resources.
Costs of energy and raw materials
Increasing populations and economic growth in many of the world’s regions are leading to rising demand for food and consumer goods. Fossil fuels, metals and ores, water and agricultural resources are becoming scarcer and more expensive as a result. Energy prices, which affect production and transport costs as well as the cost of cooling, heating and lighting in stores, are a key factor in retail price trends. In principle, the more foodstuffs are processed, the greater the influence on energy costs. Meat and dairy products are particularly affected by this.
Guaranteeing supply of natural resources
Consumers in Europe have been accustomed to relatively stable food prices for decades, but the explosion in the cost of energy and raw materials has recently changed this pattern. However, due to the high level of competition in the industry, retailers and manufacturers cannot pass on these price increases to the consumer in full. As a result, the issue of protecting our natural resources is coming to the fore for retail companies. An important element in guaranteeing the supply of natural resources is increasing efficiency in the use of fuels and raw materials. Professional energy management, the use of modern cooling and air conditioning technology, and efficient logistical processes can all help to save costs and protect resources.