The eight manufacturers participating in the first phase of the trial are The Gillette Co., HP, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, Nestle Purina PetCare Co., The Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever, all major consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.
"We are grateful to these companies for their commitment to improving the supply-chain process," Dillman said. "It isn't easy being a pioneer. It takes time, it takes resources and it takes vision. But that's how progress is made and these eight companies are at the forefront of revolutionizing the way we all do business.
Dillman said that Wal-Mart's other supplier were making progress as well. "We'll be bringing additional suppliers into this trial in the weeks ahead," she said. "That's 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."
Dick Lampman, HP senior vice president for research and director of HP Labs, put a positive face on the trial run. "As an early adopter of RFID in our own operations, we can attest to the tremendous advantage it affords businesses and their customers," he said. "We believe RFID will help retailers, manufacturers and other users reduce supply chain costs while speeding the flow of merchandise from the factory, through the distribution center and to the retail store, ultimately providing customers with better product availability."
Field Test Starts Small
Initially, a total of 21 products out of the more than 100,000 products carried in a typical "supercenter" will be included in the trial. Cases and pallets containing these products will feature EPCs when delivered to Wal-Mart's Sanger, Texas, regional distribution center (DC), where RFID readers installed at dock doors will automatically let Wal-Mart's operations and merchandising teams, as well as suppliers, know this exact shipment of products has arrived and is inside the building. Cases will then be removed from pallets and processed as usual through the distribution center.
Wal-Mart is targeting 100 percent readability of pallet tags through dock doors and 100 percent readability of case tags on distribution center conveyor belts.
At seven pilot stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area specifically in the communities of The Colony, Decatur, Denton, Hickory Creek, Lewisville and Plano RFID readers at dock doors will replicate the process from the distribution center by automatically confirming that this particular shipment is now in the store's back room. Individual products will then be stocked as needed.
During the initial test, tagged cases and pallets may be distributed to stores throughout North Texas and South Central Oklahoma the geographical area served by the Sanger DC. As suppliers expand their efforts to meet the requirements of multiple retailers, it is possible that tagged cases and pallets will arrive at Wal-Mart stores around the country. However, readers will not be installed in stores outside the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so those cases and pallets would be handled as usual, according to Wal-Mart.
Although Wal-Mart and its suppliers are focusing on case and pallet level tagging, there are instances where a case can also be a product's individual consumer packaging. This is especially true for electronic items. In the test beginning today, three products two HP Photosmart photo printers and an HP ScanJet scanner may feature RFID tags on the outer packaging consumers see on store shelves. That outer packaging will be marked with an EPCglobal symbol.