Trade Shows Focus on Hot Topics

More than 3,700 industry professionals attended Retail Systems 2004/VICS Collaborative Commerce to learn more about internal and external IT and business process issues.

“By bringing together leading executives in the retail and supply chain industries,” said Tom Friedman, president and founder of Retail Systems Alert Group Inc., “we are providing an educational forum to discuss and demonstrate innovative technologies.”


The event kicked off with keynote presentations from Mike Duke, executive vice president, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Division (USA) and Miguel Angel Lopera, CEO of EAN International and the Uniform Code Council Inc.


Duke discussed the long-term vision driving Wal-Mart Stores’ decision to integrate electronic product code (EPC) and RFID network technology into its supply chain practices. He explained his senior management team’s rationale for the well-publicized Wal-Mart 2005 initiative and its implications for the suppliers of the world’s largest retailer. He also discussed his views on transformational technologies such as RFID and their potential impact on logistics, store operations and merchandising.


On the standards front, Lopera spoke about his vision for a single set of global standards for retailers and suppliers. He explained how the EAN•UCC System is changing the way we do global electronic collaboration. He also gave the audience the current update on the latest developments of the standards world, such as Global Data Synchronization, Global Data Registry and EPCglobal.

Following the keynote sessions, top IT and business executives, including Linda Dillman of Wal-Mart, Paul Singer of Target Corp., Dick Lampman of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Mike O’Shea of Kimberly-Clark Corp., discussed critical issues around RFID adoption during an interactive panel discussion.


Both the conference and the Expo floor featured new programs for 2004. Bringing suppliers and retailers together on the Expo floor, the Collaboration Zones provided an opportunity for retailers and their current or potential suppliers to discuss new supply chain initiatives. Also on the Expo floor, Innovation Alley showcased forward-thinking companies covering a broad array of new technologies.


To close the Retail Systems event, Ryan Matthews, president, Black Monk Consulting, hosted the Strategic Integration Summit, a presentation that created debate regarding RFID implementation by retailers and suppliers via use of hypothetical role play.


Panelists included Marty Abercrombie, vice president of Replenishment at Saks Department Store Group; Peter Burrows, senior vice president and CIO at Reebok International; Tom Cole, vice chairman of Federated Department Stores; Jim Flannery, director of Global Customer Development at Procter & Gamble, and Harry Kubetz, senior vice president of Operations at Kenneth Cole.

Distribution/Computer Expo 2004

The centerpiece of D/C Expo was the educational seminar sessions and keynote presentations. Two hundred exhibitors provided attendees with the latest information and hardware applications in logistics and data collection.


Marc Wulfraat, managing partner, Kom International Inc., provided an interactive session that gave attendees the opportunity to score their companies on effectiveness at distribution operations. Through a series of 30 questions, they were able to develop a benchmark score to indicate how effective their companies were at warehousing and transportation operations.


Along similar lines, Stanley Chew, director, International Operations, HighJump Software Inc., explained how ROI for warehouse management systems (WMS) and other supply chain execution (SCE) software has traditionally been measured by comparing the cost of system implementation to operational efficiencies gained. “Today the paradigm has shifted,” said Chew. “It must be expanded to consider the system’s total cost of ownership (TCO), which goes beyond the 12-18 months usually required to generate a limited measure of ROI.” TCO encompasses all costs associated with initial implementation, integration with existing systems and minor configuration; the ongoing ability to adapt the system to changing business requirements; and the upgrade process. Because of this, it is critical to evaluate and understand all costs involved with long-term system ownership before you purchase a new WMS or SCE system.


Executives who have tried to reorganize company supply chains with minimal success found words of wisdom in the presentation from Robert Gifford, vice president, worldwide logistics and program management at Hewlett-Packard.


There are situations where the best solution to supply chain trauma is a complete overhaul, said Gifford. In fact, recent studies and publications analyzing supply chain improvements concluded that companies that boldly reorganize their supply chains achieved better results than those that merely tinker with them.


HP has seen a huge change in supply chain strategy since its merger with Compaq. Today at HP, all supply chains are focused not only around vertical groups but have a functional business unit and customer segmentation focus with an integrated IT infrastructure that is shared across business units and that is designed to support this model. This underscores the power of SCM when it is not isolated, but rather used as an embedded cross-functional capability to unify and rationalize across a dispersed organization. Gifford’s presentation discussed HP’s vision of what the supply chain model will become in the future. He used examples from HP’s own supply chain model to demonstrate how major corporations must move to a model where the supply chain is product agnostic (not driven by any product or product type) and efficiency-driven — a major change in industry thinking.


“Given the competition for investment dollars,” said John Hill, principal at ESYNC, “it is critical that prospective users take a more measured approach to assessment of automatic identification and data collection and supply chain execution system requirements and substantiation of return on investment.”


Hill’s practical presentation provided a step-by-step approach to opportunity analysis and justification development. Specifically, the session examined the benefits users should expect from investment in bar coding, voice data entry and RFID, as well as warehouse, labor and transportation management systems. The session provided a methodology that can be quickly adapted for assessment of the potential for your operations as well as a field-proven roadmap for procurement and implementation.

I-COMM for Intermec Users

For automatic identification information, Chicago was the place to be May 16-20. Taking advantage of that, Intermec held its annual conference of company execs, business partners and product users. The objective of the conference was to present educational sessions that provided insight through application and implementation of Intermec systems.


Experts in the Wireless Café were kept busy answering questions about the trends in wireless technologies hitting the factory floor. Cisco Systems and Microsoft demonstrated their latest products in a relaxed atmosphere that afforded a hands-on opportunity to see what wireless technologies could do.


At this conference, as well as most others these days, examining the RFID supplier requirements from Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense, as well as a growing list of retailers, was a hot topic. Mike Fisher and Steve Schwartz, both of Intermec, covered the various RFID applications for tracking pallets and cases from the time they enter the building, are carried on a lift truck, and leave. The plethora of equipment including hand-held readers and dock door antennas was explained.


How things work down on the factory floor was explained by Scott Westlake, director, Cisco Systems, and Tom Dowd, Intermec. As Westlake noted, in the factory environment, separate networks means efficiency. “Off-the-shelf technology increases your ability to adopt new applications,” said Westlake, “and reduces your costs by assuring you the benefit from rapidly declining infrastructure costs and requiring fewer specially trained technicians to service and support that infrastructure.”


Dowd emphasized the need for implementing standards-based Ethernet and AIDC technologies on the factory floor. — Clyde Witt, executive editor

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