Wal-Mart: "RFID Will Drive Costs Down"

Feb. 1, 2004
During the course of doing research for the January cover story on the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the military, Material

During the course of doing research for the January cover story on the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the military, Material Handling Management interviewed Wal-Mart spokesperson Sarah Clark to learn how their RFID initiative compares to the DoD's. Here is the result of that Q/A.--Tom Andel, chief editor

MHM: Does Wal-Mart have plans to coordinate efforts with the DoD in implementing RFID with suppliers they have in common?

Clark: We share information and collaborate on various strategies and standards to reach common business objectives.

MHM: In what ways does the DoD's RFID initiative help Wal-Mart's initiative? Are there any drawbacks or concerns?

Clark: We welcomed the DOD's announcement, which along with other end users will help drive the industry forward, drive more volume of RFID technology, which will eventually drive costs down.

MHM:. What contingency plans does Wal-Mart have if the roll-out doesn't go as smoothly as anticipated--i.e., key partners unable to meet dates, smaller suppliers having trouble implementing technology, technology or software glitches?

Clark: This is a team effort between Wal-Mart and our suppliers. We feel our plans are sensible, realistic and achievable. We do not anticipate any major roadblocks or areas that we can't work through together. Wal-Mart has assigned a Wal-Mart executive sponsor and a Wal-Mart program sponsor to each of these initial suppliers to ensure that we are all working together in good faith to make this happen.

MHM: Is RFID standards development going as smoothly as you'd like?

Clark: Yes...it is on track with our expectations.

MHM: How do you anticipate material handling technology/practices will change throughout Wal-Mart's (and partners') supply chains as information technology improves and develops?

Clark: RFID will transform the way a product is handled throughout the supply chain. There will be many many applications where RFID can be incorporated into material handling practices and equipment.

For more information . . .

Material Handling Management magazine, in cooperation with Siemens Dematic and the Northeast Ohio WERCouncil, will sponsor a live panel discussion and webcast during NA 2004, the Material Handling Show and Forum, on the morning of March 31, 2004 at Cleveland's I-X Center. Presentations will answer your questions about:the state of standards, the latest technology developments, best practices and how you can quickly get into compliance shape

Our Panelsists include:

--Maurice Stewart, Deputy - DoD AIT Office, US Department of Defense

--Sue Hutchinson, Product Manager, AutoID, Inc. U.S., the subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council working on the commercialization of the electronic product code (EPC)

--Joe Dunlap, supply chain solutions specialist, Siemens Dematic MaterialHandling Automation

--Guillermo Gutierrez, manager of International Paper's Smart Packaging Group, and supplier to Wal-Mart

We'll compare and contrast the RFID approaches the Military and Wal-Mart are taking in implementing their supplier compliance mandates, but we'll devote a good chunk of time to answering your questions, so come prepared to participate!

To register for webinar participation, go to http://www.MHMonline.com/events/RFID

To register to attend the event while in Cleveland, contact Tom Andel, Material Handling Management magazine, 216-931-9346 or e-mail him at [email protected]