Both cases and pallets at Wal-Marts Dallas-Fort Worth distribution center and at seven retail stores will be scanned for passive, embedded RFID tags. The merchandise at first will be distributed only within Texas and in parts of Oklahoma, but later it may fan out to other parts of the country, the retailer said.
By January 2005, Wal-Mart expects its top 100 suppliers to begin embedding RFID tags—small chips that can be scanned with electronic readers for tracking inventory—for use in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Wal-Mart says its goal during the trial run is to track 21 products—with 100 percent accuracy—out of the thousands that pass through the companys warehouses. The tags will be checked at the distribution center and rechecked at the stores to make sure the products are properly stocked.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., has lined up several top suppliers to participate, including Gillette Co., Hewlett-Packard Co., Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark Corp., Kraft Foods Inc., Nestle Purina Pet Care Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever Plc.
Since announcing the program, 37 additional suppliers have signed up and will meet the 2005 goal, the company said.
Wal-Mart CIO Linda Dillman compared the deployment of the RFID tags to the rollout of the bar code.
"We are grateful to these companies for their commitment to improving the supply-chain process," Dillman said. "It isnt easy being a pioneer. It takes time, it takes resources and it takes vision. But thats how progress is made, and these eight companies are at the forefront of revolutionizing the way we all do business.
"Our other partners are making progress as well," she added. "Well be bringing additional suppliers into this trial in the weeks ahead. Thats possible because companies are seriously exploring what this technology can do for them above and beyond anything they are doing to address our goal—something we have advocated from the beginning."