This is part of the Chainlane Interview Series, where we talk with supply chain professionals on the hottest topics in the industry, solutions, and their thought on related matters.

Should you have your own supply chain/ retail tech insights to share with Chainlane’s readers, feel free to contact us at for a potential interview.

This time around we chat with Keith Holt of Retail & Asset Solutions (RAS) about the importance of a retail hybrid stock and asset count, and how it can benefit your company.

About you - tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Keith Holt, Head of RFID at RAS with over 22 years in the Company. Previously I was an Interest Rate Derivative trader for a major UK bank and then left to start my own franchise company, trading for 6 years prior to joining RAS (formerly Churchill Stocktakers, OCS Group).

I originally joined as an Independent Stocktaker whilst selling my business, then moved into a Contract Managers role prior to leading the Contract Management Team until heading the RFID department as a strategic step for RAS.

Are there any interesting stories or projects within your role or industry, which you're proud to share?

Within my years in the industry, I was fortunate to oversee the development of our European Partner relationship initially with Sigma Inventory, then with Ivalis (post-purchase of SIGMA). We’re now fronting a new relationship with WECO to support our European customers.

In the RFID world, we’ve supported some of the early RFID adopters in the UK with tagging teams including PVH, River Island, Nike & Superdry, and have been instrumental in assisting M&S with their RFID process sign-off with external auditors using the RAS award-winning hybrid count model.

About your company and role

RAS is a trusted specialist in retail stocktaking, in-store merchandising, supply chain integrity and wholesale audit and inventory management across the retail sector; primarily based in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Any awards, recognition, inspirations, or achievements worth mentioning?

•RAS were awarded the 2020 Retail Risk Fraud Awards Winner of the "Most Innovative Physical Solution" in collaboration with M&S for RFID hybrid stocktaking.

•In 2021, RAS were also awarded “Vendor of the Year” as an accolade for our colleague’s immense contribution to serving their retail clients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Would you share a little bit more on RAS’ offerings?

RAS has a broad range of service offerings, including: Stocktaking (Retail, Pharmacy & Hospitality), RFID Solutions (Tag Ups, Software, Hardware & RFID Counting) Supply Chain Services (Good Faith Receiving, Picker Accuracy, Direct to Store and Load Adherence & Marshalling), and Merchandising Services (High Volume Merchandising, Seasonal Support, Store Relocation & Closure and Combined Installation & Merchandising)

What does your role consist of, why is it so important, and what makes it interesting?

I own a strategic role for RAS to future-proof the core business and develop innovative solutions to our client base; keeping us relevant for our client base whilst continuing to grow the business.

My experience lends itself to the ‘start-up’ project nature of the role and has always been an interesting challenge to me throughout my career. Although my background is in finance and data, I enjoy the hands-on operational side as much as the detailed planning aspects associated with projects.

Hybrid Count

The RAS hybrid count format combines the RAS START2 Stocktake Management system and the RAS RFID solution powered by Chainlane; which captures both barcode and RFID data, presenting the result outputs according to the clients specification.

Why should companies conduct a hybrid count? What are its benefits? Why not tag everything?

Invariably retailers are not 100% RFID tagged as they currently face issues with obtaining good RFID reads from tagging items such as health & beauty, food & liquids. They are also reluctant to place RFID labels on lower cost items e.g., cards, stationary, etc. (until the incremental cost of the label falls dramatically). However a varying percentage of their items still require accounting to re-set their stock files (which is the main purpose of externalising stocktakes via independent vendors such as RAS) and it is more practical and accurate to count a whole store as a single event rather than to split a count over several events; hence the requirement to capture both RFID and Barcode data within the same count.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing a hybrid count?

Following the RAS RFID hybrid count roll-out, M&S commented, "The solution has enabled M&S to benefit from lower resource requirements, reduced external stocktake costs and it has facilitated faster counts, crucially it has also achieved their original objective of significantly increasing its stock file accuracy". The reduction in stocktaking costs could also be used to increase the frequency of counts and therefore maintain their stock file accuracy over greater periods of time and to gain all the other benefits that utilising RFID tagging offers.

It’s a win-win for both retailer and stocktaking vendor, as it achieves lower cost to the retailer with a greater accuracy whilst the vendor requires fewer resources, making planning easier whilst increasing the volume of customers.

Who do you recommend should consider conducting a hybrid count process?

Any retailer with an element of RFID tagging already in place even if the percentage of stock tagged is lower than barcoded items.

The Supply Chain

In your own words, how would you define ‘the supply chain’?

In our world, the supply chain is the network of organisations, activities, and resources involved in the production, distribution, and delivery of goods or services from suppliers to consumers. We refer to it as a ‘leaky pipe’ that requires auditing at various parts of the supply chain in order for it to be efficient and reduce wastage and loss.

What has changed in the Supply Chain since you started in the industry?

Greater importance has been placed on the Distribution Centres as a hub for effective supply to end consumer, distributor, or individual stores. Time is critical and therefore automation is becoming more important as resource availability is diminishing.

What are the most crucial supply chain pains, weaknesses, and areas that need solving?

A Distribution Centers' direct-to-store/consumer and returns processing. The ability to audit outgoing orders direct to consumer or store and monitoring receipt at the other end.

What does “Inventory Accuracy” mean to you? Why is it so important for businesses?

Inventory accuracy is a measure of how well the inventory/stock holding records align with the real-time stock levels, reflecting the reliability of data, and the ability to track and manage inventory effectively.

What do you think will be the biggest changes and innovations we’ll see for the supply chain within the next 5 years?

Less human resource/interaction and greater automation through a combination of technologies including RFID.

What do you recommend others industry professionals focus on in the coming year/s?

To maintain brick and mortar stores as ‘shop windows and interactive experiences’ (unless selling necessities); and to maintain a lower stockholding, but with the ability for next-day delivery. Retailers must also develop their omnichannel strategies to include the tracking and identifying of returns using smart technology such as RFID (returns labels to incorporate RFID label associated to product allowing automated reading when returned in order to verify content)

RAS & Chainlane

How would you describe your collaboration with Chainlane?

Chainlane are the cornerstone of our RFID strategy plan in providing the software platform for our retail solutions.

How has Chainlane helped you or the businesses/clients you serve?

Chainlane have provided the RFID data capture functionality to enable the hybrid stock count format in which we are seeing an ever-increasing side to our core business.

In closing: anything else you may wish to share

Where can people go and learn more about you, what you do, and your company?



What final thought/s would you like to leave the readers with?

Our RFID solution differs from others suppliers in that we not only work with an ecosystem of partners to deliver a best in class service, but we also provide a tailored service to meet the needs of each retailer. We also have the resource on the ground across the UK and Europe to implement/roll out, train, support, and deliver the aftercare expected.