Jewellery shops boost productivity with tracking technology

An employee at Ngee Soon Jewellery scanning items of jewellery with an RFID scanner on July 27, 2017.
An employee at Ngee Soon Jewellery scanning items of jewellery with an RFID scanner on July 27, 2017. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Singapore - Jewellers are taking a shine to technology that enables their staff to be more productive and reduces the high stress levels caused by the long time it used to take to locate missing high-value items.

About 15 local jewellers are using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, which cuts down the amount of time taken to track and account for missing or stolen articles, and the time required for employees to do stock-taking.

Ms Jan Ho, executive director of Ngee Soon Jewellery, one of the earliest adopters of the technology, said: "Today, it takes less than an hour to locate lost items, compared with a full day before the RFID system was implemented.

"Staff are also less worried about locating missing jewellery items, which used to cause high stress. This frees up more time for customer engagement and the selling of products."

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The RFID system at Ngee Soon was being showcased on Wednesday (July 26) as part of efforts by the Singapore Jewellers Association (SJA) to get more jewellers to adopt the technology. The SJA has close to 300 members.

The technology uses tags with embedded chips which can be detected by a scanner. It comes with a software program that accounts for the jewellery by checking the items against the total number stocked by the shop. With the system, it takes only one person to perform stock-taking, a job that used to take two employees to do so by hand.

Ms Ho said that Ngee Soon took about a year and spent about $50,000 to implement the technology, with support from enterprise development agency Spring Singapore and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, among other groups.

RFID technology has become more affordable in recent years, with the price of a system falling by as much as 80 per cent, from more than $100,000 when it was first launched in 2004.

This makes the implementation of this technology increasingly cost-effective for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann, who was the guest of honour at the event, said: "The implementation of this technology can help businesses to ensure overall increase in productivity and improve the working environment for employees."

Other jewellers that use this technology are local retailer Poh Heng Jewellery and global chains such as Chow Tai Fook.

Mr Rohit Karnik, managing director of Irys, one of the companies providing the RFID technology, expects more jewellers to adopt the system.

Other local jewellers such as Lee Hwa Jewellery and Boon Lay Gems expressed interest in the technology during the event.

Mr Teo Kian Yeong, managing director of Boon Lay Gems, said in Mandarin: "It will be very helpful to cut the amount of wasted time - we have to spend three to four hours every day just taking stock. With the RFID technology, that can be cut."

Lee Hwa director Ko Lee Meng said that with the technology, her staff "would be able to go home earlier".