Tesco will conduct a series of pilots to radio-barcode plastic trays and dollies at its RDCs in coming months in order to demonstrate the business case to sceptical suppliers.
Although Tesco had been aiming to get the first wave of suppliers on board to tag goods by September this year, the timetable had slipped through a combination of delays over standards and scepticism on the part of suppliers, said IT director Colin Cobain.
“We’re working with about six large suppliers at the moment about the way forward.
“But we’re not issuing mandates to anyone. There has to be a business case for this. In the first instance, we are not asking them to label cases - we will tag plastic totes [plastic trays] and wheeled dollies for high value lines at one of our distribution centres.”
Although out of stocks were often caused by a failure to get products from the backroom to the shelf, which was where item-level tagging could prove very effective, tagging cases, totes and cages would make a significant difference to availability, he said.
“If you know exactly what you’ve got as stock rolls in through the back door, that’s a major step forward.
Cobain added: “We are also looking to run another pilot of item-level tagging on DVDs at a store using equipment
compliant with the new standards that will be rolled out to about 10 stores if successful.”
Although there was a new standard for RFID tags, the readers had proved more difficult, he said.
“We are hoping that standards will be clarified very soon. We need to have something that’s right in terms of power and frequency with acceptable noise levels that is able to read tags at the right throughput.”
By Christmas, Tesco is aiming to have readers across several RDCs and at the back of around 100 Extra hypermarkets, he said.
“This year we are focusing on getting the infrastructure right and showing suppliers that there is a business case.”
A key element of the infrastructure has been finalised this week following a deal with OAT Systems, which will provide software enabling Tesco to pull off data from RFID tags and integrate the information into its own systems.
Elaine Watson