A few good techies

A few good techies

A few good techies

How many tech people does it take to spearhead an industry-transforming initiative? At the 2004 Retail Systems trade show, Linda Dillman, chief information officer at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., offered the surprising news that the retail giant's core RFID team is made up of just five people. “They believe in the technology and are excited about it,” she notes. “They see this as the chance of a lifetime to be involved in the early stages.”

Paul Singer, chief information officer for rival retailer Target Corp., agrees with Dillman that the first and primary thrust of their RFID efforts has been aimed at knowing what is in the back room of their stores. Inventory visibility and control is critical to the success of their companies. “That is the most important piece of data for us to know,” says Dillman, “so we'll do that piece first. Then we'll identify the next piece and then layer that on and do it as effectively as possible, and then the next piece, and so on.”

Target also has a small RFID team, equally enthused about the impact the technology will have on the way business is conducted. “It's been an easy project to get people involved in,” says Singer. “Now is the right time to get into RFID. The cost of tags is coming down. The technology is rapidly maturing every week. This is something that's going to happen, so you might as well get on board.”

Target and Wal-Mart, as well as other retailers, understand that there has to be a single standard approach to RFID if it is going to succeed throughout the industry. A starting point is the work underway in data synchronization and the development of a single set of global standards for suppliers and retailers. Much of that effort is spearheaded by Miguel-Angel Lopera, CEO of both EAN International and the Uniform Code Council Inc. (UCC). Lopera's organization will be rebranded as a single global standards group, collectively known as GS1, followed by a country name (e.g., GS1 France, GS1 USA). The organization even has a new slogan — “One World. One System. One Global Language of Business.”

— Roger Morton

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June, 2004

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