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Wal-Mart "Next 300" RFID Event Wrap-Up

In an effort to continue its phased requirement for RFID utilization by suppliers, Wal-Mart last week hosted the Wal-Mart Supplier On-Boarding Forum & EPCglobal US Tech Expo. The event offered the "next 300" Wal-Mart suppliers insight into what it means to be RFID compliant. This guest article from ODIN technologies' Michelle Reilly recaps.
Tags: Retail
May 01, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 1, 2006—In an effort to continue its phased requirement for RFID utilization by suppliers, Wal-Mart last week hosted the Wal-Mart Supplier On-Boarding Forum & EPCglobal US Tech Expo. The event offered the "next 300" largest Wal-Mart suppliers insight into what it means to be RFID compliant. This year's Expo took place at the Adam's Mark hotel in Dallas, Texas.

The event opened on Tuesday April 25th with an afternoon reception where hundreds of noticeably nervous suppliers toured the exhibit hall. Prior to the event, Wal-Mart had requested that cross-functional teams and all primary points-of-contact within the suppliers' organizations attend the event. There was no charge for suppliers to attend, and for the first time ever RFID solution providers were given access to the Wal-Mart-led break-out sessions. This gave the industry as a whole better context for where the current initiatives stand and how Wal-Mart's expectations are evolving.

Nearly 60 exhibiting RFID vendors took advantage of the opportunity to connect directly with Wal-Mart suppliers, offering welcome guidance to anxious suppliers eager for any insight on how to meet Wal-Mart's compliance deadline of January 1, 2007. When visiting with many of the suppliers, one could feel an undertone of uneasiness and uncertainty about what is needed to become compliant.

The Wal-Mart RFID project team provided suppliers a presentation on the basics of RFID and case- and pallet-level tagging, while EPCglobal offered some education and technology resources to assist with implementation of EPC/RFID. EPCglobal, Wal-Mart, and the exhibitors all helped bring the suppliers up to speed on where the industry stands and what is entailed in an RFID implementation.

On day two, suppliers were treated to breakfast and a round of Wal-Mart presentations. The clear highlight of the presentations was the case study section presented by already RFID-compliant suppliers. In each case study, a supplier discussed its approach to becoming compliant, then showed how RFID was benefiting its business in the current term. Learning about successful RFID deployments captured the audience, and the unease was replaced with strong questions about where RFID projects should lead. A collective reconsideration about whether there was benefit to be had took place in the room, and the audience emerged thinking about opportunities for benefit.

Many suppliers felt as if they had a better understanding of what it meant to be Wal-Mart compliant. For those who earlier had concerns about meeting the compliance deadline, the Wal-Mart meetings helped change their mindset. Others began to understand the benefit in becoming compliant, and a few ended up perceiving RFID implementation as an opportunity. Ultimately, the Expo and Forum provided much-needed RFID education for some, a little clarity for others, and for all a chance to see how their counterparts are using RFID.
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