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30 08, 2013

Tracking Our Rental Inventory via RFID

By |August 30th, 2013|Company, Education, News|1 Comment

As you may know, though Sew What? has been around for many years, our sister company Rent What? is still relatively young (our 4th anniversary was July 2013).  Despite the company’s youth, we have seen many changes throughout the years, as we constantly work on ways to improve our processes and the customer’s experience.

One area that has seen a number of improvements is in the tracking of inventory.  When Rent What? first began in 2009, our inventory was fairly small (mostly black masking drapes), and so our system of tracking inventory was fairly simple.  But as the years went on and the company grew (and our inventory grew along with it), we realized we needed better processes to manage inventory control.  We needed to know exactly what was in the building at all times, what items were out on which rental orders, and which items had just been returned and were in the inspection process.

Our first step was to purchase a more robust rental software, and to barcode all of our rental inventory items.  That choice proved successful for a few years, but of course there were still occasional inventory discrepancies – not a lot, but more than we liked.  A warehouse staff member might forget to scan a bar code, for example, on an incoming or outgoing order, making it appear that an item wasn’t shipped to a customer, or that the customer didn’t return an item. So we started looking for an even better solution for managing our inventory.

Through the hard work and diligence of our Warehouse / Technical Manager, Rick Garcia, and CFO / Technical Director Adam Duckett, RFID was selected as the best method to track our inventory.  Several months ago, the decision was made to implement RFID tracking, and since then, we have been retrofitting our inventory with the tags.  Now, the project is nearly complete, with only a few items out on longer rental orders missing RFID tags (which will be added to those inventory items when they are returned).

When Rick and Adam first proposed RFID, I had heard of the term, but I didn’t know much about it.  I now know much more, thanks to Rick’s tutelage, and so I thought I would pass on the information to our blog readers.

What is RFID?

RFID stands for “Radio Frequency Identification.” RFID tags are intelligent bar codes that can talk to a networked system to track every product. RFID tags communicate with an electronic reader that will detect items almost instantly.  We are using Passive RFID tags, which are coded to the inventory control number of the rental inventory item and then sewn into the hem of the rental drape or otherwise attached to the rental item.

What are Passive RFID Tags?

Passive RFID tags rely entirely on the reader as their power source.  Passive Tags work as follows:

  • Data stored within an RFID tag’s microchip waits to be read.
  • The tag’s antenna receives electromagnetic energy from an RFID reader’s antenna.
  • Using power harvested from the reader’s electromagnetic field, the tag sends radio waves back to the reader.
  • The reader picks up the tag’s radio waves and interprets the frequencies as meaningful data.
  • The readers that we use are keyboard wedge-type devices.

What is a keyboard wedge?

A keyboard wedge is an interface which allows a non-keyboard device to plug into a computer as though it were sending keyboard data. Since most data-entry software is set up to take data from a keyboard, it is necessary to use a keyboard wedge if you want to utilize a peripheral such as an RFID reader and have it send information to the program. A keyboard wedge is so called because the physical version “wedges” between the keyboard and the computer. The keyboard is plugged into the wedge, which in turn is plugged into the computer, so that data may be inputted through either the keyboard or the other peripheral.

Why did we decide to use a keyboard wedge device?

Using wedge type devices allows us to use our current inventory management system without the need for intermediate software.  Not using the intermediate software allows our system to update in real time and will notify us of any problems immediately.

What other benefits have we discovered since implementing RFID inventory tracking?

Using RFID allows us to scan the complete order as it is leaving or entering the building, so we are able to verify that all the drapes have actually been loaded on the truck as an order leaves or have been received into our building as an order is being returned.

28 08, 2013

Inspiration from the Rent What? Website, Part 1: Pewter Textura Swags

By |August 28th, 2013|Education, Products|1 Comment

Often, we have clients who see photos of our rental stage drapes on the Rent What? website, and ask “I really the look in one of the photos on your website, and I think it might be just the look we want for our show.  What drapes are shown in the photo?”  We enjoy going on to the website with them in real time, us in our office and the client in their own office, and going through the various photos to help the client determine exactly which rental drapes will give them the look they are trying to achieve.

Taking that idea to the next level, I thought it would be helpful to the blog readers if we did the same thing via the blog – take a photo from the Rent What? website and break down the various components shown in the photo, so that the client has a quick reference as to how the look was achieved with our specialty rental drapery.

On our Timeless and Traditional Drapery Series page, Photo # 403 is a favorite of many clients.  It really is a gorgeous set, and one that clients repeatedly ask about, and so we chose that photo as the first in the series. Here is the photo with added captions:


In this photo, a group of Pewter Textura Swagettes and Legs create a dreamy romantic feel. Captions on the photo above detail where each rental drape is used in the set, and the box near the bottom details the specific sizes, quantities, and drapery types used in the inspirational photo.  This photo also shows how rental drapery can be combined with custom purchased drapery to achieve a completely unique look, as behind the rental drapery is an unusual custom backdrop featuring a clock face image, digitally printed onto clear vinyl, which the client purchased from Sew What?

This is a great inspirational photo, but a similar look can be achieved with fewer drapery pieces or more (depending on the stage size), and there are other rental drapes available in our other specialty drapery series that would allow for a similar look but in a different color or size.

23 08, 2013

Loving Flickr Photos of Little Big Town

By |August 23rd, 2013|Products, Projects|0 Comments

Many times, we work on some interesting and innovative projects, but we never see how the finished custom stage curtains or custom band backdrops look on stage with the lights and crowds and, of course, the artist / band.   Sometimes our clients send us photos, but otherwise we have to just imagine…or at least we did, until we started to find a ton of photos of our backdrops and drapes on Flickr.  Some of the photos are by professional photographers, others are by “regular” concert-goers, but they are all terrific.

Just today, I found at least 20 photos of the backdrop and stage skirting that we made for Little Big Town, and I was in awe of how great they looked on stage.  We knew they were beautiful hanging in our manufacturing shop, but seeing them with full stage lighting is the only way to get the full effect.

We were initially approached about a month ago by Chris Diener with Little Big Town’s production team.  The talented folks over at Raj Kapoor Productions, including Raj and Rachel, had created a beautifully intricate design for a digitally printed backdrop and stage skirts.  Even more unique was that the design specified that invisible UV paint be applied after printing, in order to make the design stand out in both traditional and UV lighting.

We were excited to be selected to manufacture these beautiful pieces, and when they were printed, painted and sewn, they looked gorgeous.  Here are a couple of shots of the 16′ h x 40′ w backdrop, hung in our warehouse:



Here it is being hung onstage during show load-in, with standard lighting and then with UV lights:




And here it is on stage during a show, in a couple of photos taken by the talented Maria Abdelnour, who posted the photos on Flickr:

Keith Urban, Little Big Town, and Dustin Lynch - Light the Fuse Tour - Detroit, MI 8/4/13

Keith Urban, Little Big Town, and Dustin Lynch - Light the Fuse Tour - Detroit, MI 8/4/13

I love seeing these beautiful backdrops and skirts in concert.  They look spectacular!

20 08, 2013

Let’s Rock! with our Metal Mesh Rental Drapes

By |August 20th, 2013|Clients, Products, Projects|1 Comment

We here at Rent What? were delighted to work with one of our favorite clients again recently, who seems to have mastered the art of designing his stages and events with our versatile Aluminum Metal Mesh Backdrops and Legs. Michael Roccaforte with Forté in Carmel, Indiana, works to create the most innovative and distinctive designs for their national and international clients, and we are thrilled to be a part of their creative vision. I have written about some of Forte’s designs before in a past blog entry, but I wanted to share this new remarkable design with our readers, too.

Photo Courtesy Michael Roccaforte

Not long ago, Forté designed the staging for a national sales training meeting in Denver with a theme of “Let’s Rock,” which is exactly what they did with their stage creation. They started with some of our Metal Mesh drapes from our Industrial Textures Series as their main backdrop, which are extremely lightweight and easy to hang with webbing and ties along the top and are adaptable enough to use for any special occasion. Forté then designed a 7’ x 16’ guitar in foam board, which was hung in front of our mesh drapes. Then by simply adding in some gorgeous and dramatic lighting, they were able to create a powerful and memorable stage design for their clients to fully immerse themselves in for this important meeting. We truly enjoy being a part of our client’s imagination, and love seeing what incredible designs they will produce with our rental drapes and backdrops next.

16 08, 2013

With a Little Help from Friends…

By |August 16th, 2013|Authors, Company|0 Comments

There are some people who have crossed our path at one time or another who genuinely helped form us – by either bringing a mad skill – or lending a helping hand, or even an ear, when it was most needed.

This is a short but sincere shout out to just a couple of specific people who might not realize just how much they meant!

Cynthia Ray – a coworker from many years ago.  When I said one night after quitting my job that I was exhausted but had just sold a job to pleat up several hundred yards of special custom order borders for Stevie Nicks……….. She got in her car three nights in a row and drove from LA to Torrance to pleat and pin with me into the wee hours of the night. Without her help I would never have finished the project on time, and let’s face it – the show WILL go on – with or without the drapes. Thanks to a great friend who stepped in just when I needed it!

Isaac Waksul and Rosalie Zigman – Pre-Sew What, and long before I was capable of realizing what an amazing opportunity I had………for about 18 months I worked for Isaac along with his trusted Rosalie out of his surfside offices in Long Beach. Isaac planned events for the big technology players, and yet when it came time for research, he sent me off to the public library. Learning how to look, listen, extract, condense, and then read it again! At the time, I am certain I must have foolishly questioned – “why be soooo thorough?” – but in years that followed after the business was up and running, I realized that my skills in research meant that we were better decision makers, turning over every rock, sometimes twice, and in doing so making best practice decisions and new discoveries, too.  Coming full circle, Rosalie now works with us here at Rent What? and as a testament to Isaac’s methods, she manages to do in 2 half days what would take most of us a full week. Rosalie is a gem – and I think of Isaac most every day when faced with questions.  He certainly taught me how to find the answers, and beyond that how to communicate the answers.  Great people.

Wakaba Tada – being a new business is hard enough as it is – and then you need money. The banks won’t lend to you unless you have 3 years of books to look at – so what to do? We were always blessed to organically self-fund, where consistent profitability allowed us to keep investing (no matter how small) back into the business. But keeping the books by hand more or less, I went by the little local banking office every day – where I was assigned a lovely woman my age from Japan.  Wakaba walked us through our banking needs, guided our decisions and saw us through to the day when the bank extended an official “line of credit” – pretty much unheard of for such a young business at the time.  Years later we became friends outside of the business and bank – eventually taking aerobics classes together at the local YMCA, and in later years when she married she invited our son William to be her ring bearer!  Wakaba now lives in Japan with her husband and has specialized in investment banking.

DAD – yes – Boot-Scooting-Billy to some – and Papa to others. But Dad has been here holding hands, drying tears, vaccuming up pins and keeping the team dancing for 17 years now. So, thanks Dad – from all of us – because you made a difference and continue to – in fact we’re all looking forward to your next visit in October……..

Dad (aka Bill Rowe)

With Thanks – and to so many others …. unmentioned but not forgotten.