Retailers test product display techniques for Kimberly-Clark's wares as well as other merchandise.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Senior Writer, InformationWeek

September 13, 2007

3 Min Read

RFID On The Go
A visit to Kimberly-Clark's virtual reality theater gave Kroger managers ideas for better shelving, and then they went on to explore ways to improve the process of getting products from delivery trucks to the store displays using RFID, Baez says.

Kimberly-Clark has been deeply involved in testing ways to use RFID in the retail supply chain. The technology--heavily pushed by Wal-Mart--has been slow to be adopted, as the industry struggles for concrete return on investment from putting RFID tags on pallets, boxes, or even individual items to better track them through the supply chain.

But Kimberly-Clark has taken a more focused approach. Among its recent innovations, the company has partnered with OATSystems to develop a low-cost portable RFID tagging system that fits in a suitcase. Kimberly-Clark's field staff use this Portable-Edge system to tag promotional displays and the products on them so that they can track exactly when the display reaches the store floor. "You can take it into the field, into a warehouse, make RFID tags, and adhere them to products on the spot," Baez says.

One common problem for consumer-goods companies is that the displays for a promotional event don't get onto the store floor in time to sync up with the advertising they're tied to. By using RFID on promotional displays, the company can track whether the displays get to the store floor at the right time and compare that with sales results.

"Industry statistics show that up to 40% of stores fail to move promotional displays to the sales floor on time, missing critical promotional windows and the opportunity to increase sales," says Greg Tadych, IT services director of product supply for North At- lantic consumer products.

By using RFID to closely monitor when displays and the products on them make it onto the sales floor, Kimberly-Clark is able to help retailers identify the reasons sales of some products fall short of expectations in certain stores, Tadych says. Often it's because products aren't ordered in time, aren't displayed in the right place, or just don't get in front of the customer in time, he says.

The portable system has let Kimberly-Clark be more responsive to retail partners' needs and help enhance their business, "with a common goal of improving store-level availability of Kimberly-Clark products," Tadych says.

UP FOR CHALLENGES
Whether it's getting displays out at the right time or showing retail partners better ways to display products, Kimberly-Clark is using technology to be more effective.

During his more than 25 years in technology, Baez was CIO at Honeywell International Automation and Control Solutions and worked as an IT exec at defense contractor Northrop Grumman. The technologies used at Kimberly-Clark are "just as robust as those in defense," he says. "I went from B-2 bombers to toilet tissue," yet the goals are the same. "To be more efficient, more effective, get better customer data, and get good information to decision makers quicker."

Kimberly-Clark is doing even more than that by helping its retail customers be more efficient and effective with the products they sell.

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About the Author(s)

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Senior Writer, InformationWeek

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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