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Wilson Sporting Goods Looking to Score With RFID

The company hopes to gain increased visibility regarding the products it ships to Wal-Mart, and to track the in-store deployment of promotional displays.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 06, 2008As the former director of integrated systems for Pacific Cycle, one of the first consumer goods manufacturers to begin tagging product bound for RFID-enabled Wal-Mart distribution centers, Edwin Matthews knows his way around RFID (see Pacific Cycle Integrates RFID Data). That knowledge came in handy when he began working for Wilson Sporting Goods, which manufactures a range of sports products such as basketballs and baseball bats, to prepare that company to begin tagging products in compliance with Wal-Mart's mandate as well.

Having met its January 2007 tagging deadline, Wilson Sporting Goods—owned by Amer Sports, a large sporting goods manufacturer that also owns Salomon, Atomic and Precor—is now ramping up to begin tagging additional products in order to leverage its investment in new RFID infrastructure. That infrastructure change involved the deployment of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform made by SAP.

A pallet of Wilson basketballs.

When Wilson first started tagging select products, it had to manually divert orders containing the specific products that needed to be tagged. Now, it uses the Auto-ID Infrastructure software tool within the SAP ERP to automatically flag and divert any to-be-tagged products as they are received from the factory. This, he says, has made the process less labor- and time-intensive.

Between January 2007 and January 2008, Matthews estimates that Wilson consumed 200,000 tags by tagging a few stock-keeping units (SKUs) of baseball mitts, tennis rackets and basketballs headed for a handful of Wal-Mart DCs in Texas. The number of tags consumed, he says, should increase to 300,000 this year, and the number of SKUs Wilson will tag will also increase.

The products Wilson intends to begin tagging include baseball bats, but the aluminum construction of some bats interferes with RF signals, making the RFID tags attached to cases of bats difficult to read. "We are experimenting with using different packaging [for the bats]," Matthews states, "to add an air buffer behind the tag that will make the tag easier to read."

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