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Piggly Wiggly Carolina Eyes RFID

With the aid of data synch firm GXS, the 113-store franchise of the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain is getting ready to accept RFID-tagged shipments.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 17, 2006Rachel Bolt, assistant director of information systems for the Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., has a message for those retailers that don't count themselves among such giants as Wal-Mart and Target: RFID is going to help you.

"Retail giants are demanding RFID, but smaller retailers aren't looking at it," Bolt explains. The irony of this? "The smaller [retailers] will benefit more because we're more resource-strapped [than large retailers]. If big retailers are getting value from it, then the smaller ones will, for sure," she says, referring to the use of RFID tags attached to shipments of goods to automate the receipt of goods and increase the accuracy of inventory records.

Rachel Bolt
Bolt is speaking today at the 95th annual National Retail Federation conference in New York City. She says she will not announce an RFID mandate, or even request suppliers begin using the technology. Rather, she will discuss the steps being taking by Piggly Wiggly Carolina, a Piggly Wiggly franchise operating 113 stores in South Carolina and Georgia, to ready itself to utilize RFID technology fully in the future. Although the grocery chain has yet to perform any RFID pilot tests with its suppliers—and presently has none planned—Bolt has bullish views on RFID's benefits to retailers.

Bolt and her team worked with business data synch and integration services firm GXS to synchronize the product data Piggly Wiggly Carolina exchanges with its 600 suppliers and enable the grocer to use the advance shipment notices its suppliers provide to automate its receiving processes, and to reduce shipping errors. The goal of the synchronization work was to ensure that Piggly Wiggly Carolina's receiving department can read the electronic documents' listing of forthcoming shipments of goods, as well as carton identifications, content descriptions, transportation details and other critical information.

"[Getting] suppliers [set up to begin sending] ASNs is no minor task," says Bolt. "But you have to have ASNs before you can begin using RFID" because you need to know what Electronic Product Codes (EPCs) you'll be receiving in order to automate the receiving process. She says Piggly Wiggly Carolina started requiring its suppliers to begin using ASNs in June 2005. If—or, more likely, when—Piggly Wiggly Carolina begins requiring its suppliers to apply RFID tags to pallets and/or cases of goods sent to its distribution centers and stores, the suppliers will need to list the EPCs written to RFID tags on these ASNs.

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