Target Aims at RFID Compliance from Suppliers

Target Corp. has posted a target it wants its suppliers to hit: spring 2005. That's the date by which it wants top suppliers to start using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on every case and pallet shipped to a selection of its distribution facilities. Remaining suppliers have a more distant target: spring 2007.

As a member of EPCglobal, which is spearheaded by the Uniform Code Council and working on the code's commercialization, Target is going to require the same data and tag types as Wal-Mart.

This is good news for suppliers since Wal-Mart, Target and the DoD will have essentially the same technology requirements. The DoD may have some additional data needs for non-retail items.

"The "bottom line" good news is that every major announcement in both the U.S. and Europe that either requires or suggests the use of RFID on cartons and pallets (including HDMA's) are in the EPC camp," says Bert Moore, principal with IDAT Consulting and contributing editor to Material Handling Management. "To date, everyone has agreed that the existing Class 0 and Class 1 tags and data structures [compatible with, but not exactly the same as, existing EAN.UCC data] will be acceptable in the near term. While some data requirements have yet to be worked out [HDMA and DoD are working with EPCglobal to determine solutions to their needs], any differences will likely be seen only in "next generation" tags -- the Generation 2 tags and data structures under development. These changes will be evolutionary, not revolutionary."

Sue Hutchinson, product manager for EPCglobal, offered MHM two more reasons why this news from Target is good for everyone:

1) For suppliers who sell to both Wal-Mart and Target, it means we are more rapidly moving to having enough volume to justify them tagging everything, rather than segregating RFID tagged-inventory just for Wal-Mart.

2) The product mix between Wal-Mart and Target has some similarities, but also some differences, bringing more manufacturers from more sectors into the process, making the standards that much more robust.

Target CIO Paul Singer issued the mandate to vendor partners in February in the form of a letter posted on the company's extranet. In the letter, Singer writes that Target "supports a retail industry migration approach" to the adoption of RFID. The letter says that Target is working with EPCglobal to develop common technology standards that will benefit both retailers and their suppliers.

Target is being tight-lipped about further details, but in his letter, Singer promises that further learnings will come out of its pilot projects, and that the company will share more information with vendors later in 2004.

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