Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Thursday publicly released expansion plans for its electronic product code and radio-frequency identification technology initiative. It met with its top 100-plus suppliers participating in the RFID project gathered in Bentonville, Ark., on Monday to provide an update on the January 2005 implementation, and hear feedback from suppliers on which of the 120 distribution centers in the United States should make the list next. The next 200 suppliers convened in Bentonville on Wednesday to hear similar updates.
By June 2005, Wal-Mart expects to have the project live in up to six distribution centers, and as many as 250 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations. By October of next year, that number will jump to approximately 13 distribution centers and as many as 600 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. The next 200 suppliers will begin tagging cases and pallets in January 2006. "We discussed implementation plans with our next top 200 suppliers," Linda Dillman, Wal-Mart's executive VP and CIO, said in a prepared statement. "Over the next 16 months, we also plan to significantly increase the number of Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Club locations where customers can benefit from this revolutionary technology."
Wal-Mart is working with suppliers to determine the next geographical region to take the project. Cases and pallets of 21 products from eight suppliers now are being shipped to Wal-Mart's Sanger, Texas, distribution centers and then onward to seven local stores with RFID tags attached. Wal-Mart said the technology gives retailers greater inventory visibility from supplier to distribution center to a store's back room.
Wal-Mart said its Dallas pilot is progressing as planned, and expects the number of suppliers tagging cases and pallets for the pilot to expand every few weeks. Consumers may soon see additional products displaying the EPCglobal symbol, including electronic products or other large items such as bicycles or lawnmowers. "We're seeing the positive results we expected," Dillman said. "We also anticipated hitting a few minor bumps in the road, which has happened. The whole reason for a pilot is to fix any last-minute issues and clear the path for a smooth implementation. That's what we're doing, and we're looking forward to January 2005 with great expectations."