Wal-Mart cannot force suppliers to adopt new technologies such as RFID, but those that don’t get on board now risk being left behind, Wal-Mart president and ceo Lee Scott has warned.
Speaking at the ECR Europe conference in Brussels, Scott said: “You can’t just mandate to people - it’s inappropriate to force people to do things. But those moving early will be seen to be winning and others will have to play catch-up.”
To suppliers struggling to find a business case for the technology, Gillette’s senior vice-president for global value chain and global marketing resources, Ed Shirley, said: “There is a return from case level tagging.” If you know exactly what’s arrived at the store because RFID tagged cases are read as they come in, and if you know exactly what you’ve sold through monitoring your EPoS sales, you can get products on the shelf when you need them, he said. “If RFID can drive up availability, then you have a business case.”
Technical problems such as getting accurate reads on mixed pallets and tagging metal products could be overcome, said Shirley. “We ship our pallets in mixed cases and we are getting 100% accuracy. Early adopters will realise the benefits sooner.”
Metro chief information officer and executive vice-president, human resources, Zygmunt
Mierdorf said RFID applications at Metro’s Future store in Rheinberg had proved RFID was capable of delivering a 9-14% reduction in out of stocks, an 11-18% reduction in shrinkage and an 11% cut in labour costs.
Tesco, Wal-Mart and Metro have all made commitments to roll out the technology across their depot networks in the next three years, and Belgian retailer Delhaize has just announced that it will carry out trials. It is launching two major RFID pilots in the next 12 months to assess the benefits of the technology before a wider rollout across its supply chain.
The first pilot, starting in October, will focus on reusable meat crates, while the second, in March 2005, will focus on pallet level tagging.