Wal-Mart Stores Inc. next month will launch its first real-world radio-frequency identification test with eight as-yet-unnamed suppliers, according to Linda Dillman, the retailer's executive VP and CIO of information systems. Cases and pallets of products with passive RFID tags will be shipped to three of Wal-Mart's Dallas distribution warehouses starting April 19.
Gillette, Kimberly Clark, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Purina, SE Johnson, and Unilever are among the suppliers whose RFID projects are the furthest along, and industry execs and analysts say they're likely participants in the April pilot. "The several suppliers with mature RFID technology programs shouldn't have major glitches in this pilot because they have already completed their own tests," says Gene Alvarez, VP of technology research services at Meta Group. Suppliers may not hit all the required metrics--for example, Wal-Mart demands a 100% tag-read rate for cases moving down conveyer belts at 600 feet per minute--"but they should hit enough of them," Alvarez says.
Speaking at the Grocery Manufactures of America conference in La Jolla, Calif., last week, Dillman also addressed Wal-Mart's plans for managing the boom in data volume. "So much more information is made available with RFID, and we're going to strip out the data we need today and store the remainder," Dillman said. As additional data--such as date codes for food items--becomes useful, it will be integrated with Wal-Mart's enterprise applications.