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Walgreens Opens RFID-Enabled Distribution Center

The drugstore chain's DC in Anderson, S.C., has tagged 170,000 totes used to supply merchandise to 700 stores throughout the Southeast, enabling the company to prevent errors and streamline its shipping processes.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 16, 2008Pharmacy retail chain Walgreens has deployed an RFID system in its approximately 600,000-square-foot distribution center in Anderson, S.C., that alerts employees before they load a shipment on the wrong truck bound for retail locations throughout the Southeast. This has helped the company meet its goal of eliminating shipment loading errors and paperwork.

The deployment, provided by Palo Alto, Calif., RFID infrastructure company Blue Vector, also enables Walgreens' warehouse management system to automatically send out advance shipment notices as products leave the center. Altogether, the system includes 170,000 plastic totes fitted with EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags, some tagged dollies and 45 Blue Vector RFID portals installed at dock doors and other locations around the center.

John Beans
The RFID system, which Walgreens has been trialing for about one year, has been successful enough that the retailer is now installing the same application at its DC in Windsor, Conn.

At the Anderson distribution center, first opened in 2007, nearly half of the DC's entire staff are physically or cognitively disabled. One of Walgreens' initial goals in deploying the RFID system was to make the work for these staff members more manageable, says John Beans, Blue Vector's VP of marketing. Ultimately, however, the company focused on reducing shipping errors and eliminating paperwork in Anderson, as well as at all of its distribution centers.

The RFID system is designed to alert employees when a tote has been moved to the wrong dock door, and when it is being loaded in the incorrect order. For instance, often a truck will transport multiple shipments to several stores and needs to have the goods loaded in the order in which they will be delivered.

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