U.K. Grocer Expands RFID Initiative

U.K. grocery chain Tesco will soon expand its RFID project to include eight big-name suppliers. The initiative follows an internal RFID project that was used to track shipments from its distribution centers to its stores.

Tesco PLC is getting ready to expand its radio-frequency identification project to work with approximately eight suppliers. Participating in the project will be "names you'd recognize"--such as Procter & Gamble-- according to John Clarke, Tesco's group chief technology officer and chief architect. The project is scheduled to get under way by this Christmas.

The program is being supported by about 30 of the U.K. supermarket chain's roughly 2,000 IT employees. Earlier this year, Tesco began work to roll out an internal RFID project that tracks shipments from its Milton Keynes central distribution center to all 98 of its Tesco Extra superstores in the United Kingdom, where the technology is referred to as "radio barcode."

Tesco has 26 distribution centers, with another three to four opening during the next year. Tesco has 1,576 stores.

For the project, Tesco chose OATSystems Inc.'s middleware software--OAT Foundation Suite--to collect and filter data from 200 readers, although Tesco has yet to name the companies that will supply tags and readers. "There is a need to put in place a key part of the infrastructure that will let us feed information from the reader tags into our ERP platform," Clarke says. "We are talking with tag and reader providers to try and make some decisions on who to work with."

Products being tagged include batteries, razors, pharamceutical, health and beauty, mobile phones and fragrances.

With the focus on improving visibility through the supply chain, Tesco earlier this year set out to enable its nearly 30 distribution centers as well as stores in the United Kingdom with readers to let the company track product in cases and pallets from its distribution centers to stores. And although most of the tracking has been for cases and pallets, Tesco has been experimenting with item-level tracking on DVDs. Clarke says Tesco's use of tags on DVDs is an area where replenishment and theft prevention is made simple on an otherwise time-consuming task.

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