The WaterWheel Foundation
The WaterWheel Foundation

(RFID World Canada) As the charitable arm of rock band Phish, The WaterWheel Foundation spends nearly 100 days on the road each year, packing, transporting, unpacking and then repacking thousands of The WaterWheel Foundation logoed items that are awarded to fans who support the foundation’s non-profit work.

WaterWheel is staffed largely by volunteers on the road and net donations flow directly to pre-selected non-profit organizations in the communities where Phish performs. This makes time and efficiencies critical factors in managing inventories, as any loss in time or inventory could directly impact the local non-profit community.

Now, a new RFID software application, TC Mobile Merch™ donated by Truecount, is keeping The WaterWheel Foundation’s inventory tightly controlled. Volunteers and fans are happier too, with every item of logoed gear in the right place at the right time.

With more than 2,500 shirts, hats, sweatshirts and other items now tagged with TC Mobile Merch, WaterWheel has successfully reduced receive and pack-out times and achieved near perfect accuracy rates for cycle counts. “Truecount RFID technology has cut inventory time significantly,” says WaterWheel’s tour director, Mathew Beck. “Hand counts that previously took up to two hours to execute, are now completed in about ten minutes using Truecount. With huge blocks of valuable time saved, our volunteer staff can focus on what we do best: interacting with Phish fans. This in turn, results in more donations for our designated charities.”

The WaterWheel Foundation, known for its ecologically friendly approach, maintains a large inventory of items, ranging from organic cotton beanies to hoodies and other outer wear fashioned from all-natural or recycled fabrics. The foundation’s challenge is to maintain accurate stock levels for thousands of WaterWheel logoed items throughout the duration of each tour as well as online. “With so many moving parts, we are always working to make sure we don’t run out of items, and that boxes are not lost or misplaced along the way,” says Beck. “Phish fans are extremely loyal and it’s important to us that we keep them happy.”

The WaterWheel Foundation turned to Truecount Corporation for inventory management assistance during the kick-off of the Phish summer tour. Partnering with WaterWheel leadership, Truecount implemented a lightweight, easily portable solution, donating the software and Truecount staff time for deploying and implementing. Truecount used Champion tags, donated by Checkpoint, for tagging.

Truecount’s solution for event merchandisers comes packaged in a Pelican Case making it easy to ship ahead or to be hand-carried by the event team in their truck or van as they follow the tour.

According to Truecount CEO Zander Livingston, event merchandisers face significant challenges that are unique to their industry. “The variables are constantly changing,” says Livingston. “Event merchandise is in perpetual motion, which must be continuously counted and tracked as it transits from venue to venue, warehouses and distribution centers. There’s an ongoing process of receive and pack-out, set-up and pack-in. Trucks are loaded and unloaded. Items can get left in the truck, or at the venue. Turnovers of inventory are fast, with fans constantly handling the merchandise and disturbing the displays. The rapid-paced, unstructured environment is perfect for the functionality and enabling features item-level RFID brings to merchandise counting and tracking processes.”

With Truecount in place, WaterWheel is able to rapidly and accurately count and track goods in a simple, effective manner. “This represents significant savings in time while ensuring that our display tables and kiosks are properly stocked at all times, even under the most hectic conditions.”, says Beck.

Since its creation by Phish in 1997, The WaterWheel Foundation has donated more than $2,500,000 to non-profit organizations. ‘The merchandise we manage and give away helps to make a difference in the communities we visit,” says Beck. “It’s important that it be counted and controlled using the best, more accurate technology available. Truecount has significantly streamlined merchandise counts on the road, eliminating hassles, saving time and avoiding the human errors that are inevitable with manual counts.”

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