The solution, called Physical Media Tracking, can locate and track items as small as compact discs using "Silent Commerce" technologies including radio frequency identification tags (RFIDs).
The ability to continuously track such small items in a large chain can help retailers ensure that those items are properly shelved and then restocked within a short period of time. Because the technology is integrated with ERP, reordering, and billing systems, payments can be made without any human intervention.
"Routinely users do three of four passes on their shelves to accomplish three or four different things. With this technology we are combining them into one. Inventory accuracy is huge for users in terms of knowing where stuff is. While this technology will not prevent [inventory] shrinkage, it certainly lets you know where it is happening," said Joe Tobolski, a senior manager at Accenture's Technology Labs in California, UK.
Specifically, Physical Media Tracking will help reduce the costs and labour involved with typical inventory management processes as well as offer better supply-chain visibility. This means that administrators can do a more effective job at preventing theft, shoplifting, administrative errors, and simple merchandise misplacement, according to Tobolski.
"This allows retailers to put together a complete supply chain within the store, from the back door to the carts used to carry the materials going on the shelves, to the point of sale systems. All that is outfitted with RFID readers tags," Tobolski said. "It can track at the item level and then integrate that information with SAP at the corporate level where overall inventorying and warehousing takes place," he said.
RFID tags, which cost as little as 30 pence apiece, allow for individual communications about items through low-power radio signals. These tags can identify individual products, and allow for communication about products between manufacturers and sellers. As one example, an incoming shipment of goods can be read using a tunnel reader that makes it possible for each item within an entire shipment to be checked for accuracy, according to Accenture officials.
Company officials declined to say when the finished version of the technology solution would be made available.