Saturday, November 08, 2003

Details on Wal-Mart's RFID specifications

The ARC Advisory Group has a good summary on what came out of Walmart's supplier meeting last week. In short, Walmart wants both pallet and case-level tags, and suppliers should include the Electronic Product Code (EPC) on the tag as well on any EDI Advanced Ship Notices (ASN) sent to Walmart.

ARC gives good details on the specific RFI technologies that Walmart is adopting and potential vendors:
In the short term, Wal-Mart will support 96 bit Class 0 and Class 1 tags. In the longer term, Class 1/Version 2 tags will be supported. Class 0 tags are built by Matrics and are programmed in the factory. Suppliers then would need to match the tag to the right product before shipping. Class 1 tags are made by Alien, Texas Instruments, Phillips, and Intermec, they are one-time write/read tags.

Suppliers were cautioned about tag readers. Companies were advised to buy "agile" readers with an upgrade of software that could adapt to new tag protocals, like Class 1/Version 2. This is an endorsement of readers by ThingMagic and AWID (Advanced Wireless Integrated Design). Wal-Mart also advised the use of readers with an integrated design that do not use cables that can be damaged by fork lifts.
Fortunately for suppliers, Walmart is taking a phased approach to the rollout of RFID. According to Greg Gilbert at Manhattan Associates, which provides RFID support in its warehouse management offerings, Walmart's program will start with three Walmart distribution centers in Texas and will expand to other DCs through 2005. Quoted in Information Week, Gilbert says, "If you look at the way Wal-Mart has rolled out any supply chain or compliance initiative in the past, it has always been a very pragmatic, tactical, phased approach as opposed to trying to do it all in a big bang."

Update, Nov. 17: Kara Romanow at AMR gives her take on Walmart's supplier meeting. In a nutshell, "Wal-Mart did not recommend any specific solutions, mentioned no preferred vendors, and did not provide the promised implementation guide. And Wal-Mart executives were adamant about suppliers finding the ROI themselves and not increasing cost of goods."

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