Top 10 Best Practices for Wal-Mart's "Next 300" RFID-mandated Suppliers

Start early, start small and prepare for change; Zebra offers insights for successful compliance initiatives

Start early, start small and prepare for change; Zebra offers insights for successful compliance initiatives

Vernon Hills, IL — April 21, 2006 — With the deadline looming for Wal-Mart's "next 300" suppliers to adopt radio frequency identification (RFID) labeling, representatives from these supplier companies will be heading to Dallas next week to learn how to implement internal RFID compliance programs in order to continue selling to the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart and EPCglobal, the RFID standards organization, will co-host an event in the coming week for the "next 300" suppliers who need to respond to the giant retailer's RFID compliance mandate.

Zebra Technologies, a manufacturer of bar code and RFID smart labeling solutions, worked with key partners and a large number of "first 300" suppliers to help them launch RFID technology in their operations. To help the "next 300" companies with their compliance mandates, Zebra has offered up the top 10 best practices based on successful RFID implementations.

The best practices are based on implementations with Wal-Mart suppliers Pacific Cycle, the largest bicycle supplier in North America; Victory Land Group, a large furniture importer; and Beaver Street Fisheries, a distributor of fish and seafood products. Highlights from the article on the top 10 best practices for a successful RFID implementation include:

1. Start early.
It takes time to research the technology, select the right partners and align the organization.

2. Choose supplies carefully.
If your tags don't work, you risk missing deadlines for compliance.

3. Determine the where and how of smart labeling.
Will you incorporate RFID tags into your current shipping labels or add new label formats? Where are labels best placed on the carton, pallet? There are many questions to answer.

4. Pick the right partners.
Choosing the right partners is critical for RFID success. Look for companies that are experienced and fit well with your existing applications and business processes.

5. Start small and simple, then expand.
Beaver Street Fisheries, Victory Land Group and Pacific Cycle started with basic RFID tagging on a limited number of products. All three companies agreed that starting small made the project a lot less intimidating and reduced costs by saving on mistakes that could disrupt operations.

6. Test, test, test.
Tags perform differently with different materials, at different locations and at different channels within the UHF spectrum, so it is important to thoroughly test early in the process to avoid creating more issues as implementations scale up in volume.

7. If you can, plan RFID from the ground up.
If your company will be involved in new construction, implementing new applications or upgrading IT infrastructure, gaining experience with RFID and factoring it in your plans is a very good idea.

8. Utilize the data.
It is important to transport and translate the RFID data flow to upstream business applications for true ROI from an RFID implementation.

9. Look beyond compliance for ROI.
Beaver Street Fisheries, Victory Land Group and Pacific Cycle agree that leveraging their compliance learnings is only the first step — although extending the technology internally in an organization requires business process and software re-engineering. When RFID data can be used to improve business processes, companies experience significant payback.

10. Recognize that RFID is still a moving target and plan for change.
RFID certainly has arrived, but global standards are still being settled. Almost certainly the RFID architecture that is implemented today will undergo changes in the next 18 months. Zebra asserts that this places a premium on the the initial vendor relationships that a company establishes, particularly as an implementation matures. By choosing strong and knowledgeable partners today, end users can ensure they stay abreast of the many developments in RFID tomorrow, Zebra said.

The complete top 10 list is available at

Additional Articles of Interest

— Contemplating RFID? Here are three critical questions to answer before embarking on a radio frequency identification initiative. Read "Recognizing Real RFID Adoption Potential," in the February/March 2006 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

— A recent independent study revealed that Wal-Mart customers are finding the items they wanted in stock more often due to the retailer's use of RFID technologies when compared to control stores. Read more in "Wal-Mart Achieving Improved On-shelf Availability with RFID, Study Finds" on