Real-time Retail Supply Chain

UK's Woolworths to use wireless tracking to manage shipments

Sunnyvale, CA  May 28, 2002  Woolworths has tapped Savi Technology to build an automated information system for real-time management and security of shipments between the U.K. retailer's distribution and retail outlets.

Woolworths is looking to the real-time information network to improve management of dollies, roll cages and totes and the security of the consumer products they transport within the retailer's supply chain network. Through the deployment of Savi's Web-based SmartChain software platform, which links with wireless tracking systems, the information network is intended to reduce inventory shrinkage while improving operational efficiency, inventory management and customer service.

Rollout of the project, which initially involves distribution between Woolworths' national distribution center and a selection of its retail outlets, begins in May and extends into early next year, when results will be assessed for further system wide implementations.

"This exciting application will provide Woolworths with real-time visibility of the whereabouts of its stock, improve operational efficiency and prevent crime within the supply chain by providing an audit trail of who picked merchandise, its current location, its destination, and everyone who handled it along the supply chain," said Geoff O'Neill, head of Woolworths' central logistics for new sales channels.

O'Neill said the Woolworths project, funded in part by the U.K. government's "Chipping of Goods Initiative," provides an opportunity to demonstrate to the business community and the radio frequency identification (RFID) industry the potential of RFID in crime prevention, business process improvement and cost reduction.

Savi is partnering with Microlise, a U.K.-based systems integrator for the logistics industry, to fulfill the contract with Woolworths, which is one of the United Kingdom's largest retailers, with 800 stores and more than $2 billion in annual sales.

To maximize real-time security, visibility and management of its supply chain assets and their contents, Woolworths will deploy a full complement of Savi's products and services. These solutions include the Savi Asset Management System software application for reusable transportation containers (RTCs), and the Savi SmartChain platform, which is intended to transform raw data into actionable information and drives automated alerts; EchoPoint Series 600 tag and reader hardware components that automatically collect and transmit data; and the Universal Data Appliance Protocol (UDAP), Savi's licensable protocol linking data from different wireless tracking systems to the Savi SmartChain software platform.

The project initially involves the installation of the SmartChain software platform at Woolworths' key distribution center in Swindon and a number of its stores. Some 16,500 EchoPoint Series 600 active tags will be affixed to Woolworths' conveyances moving back and forth between distribution facilities and retail stores. These smart tags are affixed to assets and tracked by the RFID system in real time, while automatically transmitting event-related alerts and other key data to Savi's SmartChain software platform, from which the assets can be managed via a computer screen.

Real-time visibility and management of Woolworths' conveyances is achieved through the interoperability of two technologies. First, RFID smart tags affixed to supply chain assets assign each dolly, roll cage and tote a unique identification code. Savi's EchoPoint Reader and SignPost system captures the conveyance's identification, location, status and other stored information whenever they pass by, and then transmits the data to the SmartChain platform, which reports on the status of the system and assets. From there, users get alerts and other key data on a personal computer screen through the asset management software, which provides features to manage the life cycle of an asset, including acquisition, finance, security, maintenance, management and disposal.

Savi's solution also will be integrated with Woolworths' existing DPS data base system for booking, tracking and sequencing of their supply chain assets. The integrated solution is aimed at individually identifying and controlling the loading of conveyances to stores and back to the warehouse, checking on store deliveries and shortages, real-time status, location and collection of returned products, such as CDs and DVDs, and reports about error rates, picking-to-loading times and asset utilization.

Savi's Real-Time Event Engine automatically sends alerts in both the physical supply chain and over the Internet whenever there are deviations from plans or schedules. For example, if a dock worker was to load dollies onto the wrong truck, an alarm would sound, while an exception alert would be sent to his manager's PC as a backup. Savi said that this pre-emptive management alone can save tremendous costs that can incur from trying to correct the situation after-the-fact.

For more information on the use of RFID technologies in the supply chain, see the article "Needle in a Supply Chain Haystack" in the Net Best Thing column of January 2002's issue of iSource Business (