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Wal-Mart Canada Plans Its First RFID Pilot

Working with a small number of its suppliers, the retailer will institute a system that closely parallels its U.S. RFID deployments.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 05, 2006Wal-Mart Canada plans to launch an RFID pilot this fall with approximately 16 suppliers to track products through the supply chain. The pilot will include Wal-Mart Canada's Mississauga distribution center and 20 of its 272 Wal-Mart stores—all in southern Ontario.

Wal-Mart has asked the suppliers to attend a June meeting to discuss the pilot. "So far, we have only extended an invitation to 16," says Wal-Mart spokesperson Christi Gallagher. The majority of those suppliers, she says, are already involved in RFID implementation for Wal-Mart in the United States. Gallagher says Wal-Mart Canada will be speaking about the pilot on Tuesday, June 6, at the Store conference in Toronto, organized by the Retail Council of Canada. Gallagher says she anticipates more interest from other suppliers at that time.

"The ultimate goal is to keep the pilot small and controlled, leveraging what we have already seen in the United States," says Gallagher. Wal-Mart in the United States presently has 300 suppliers using RFID tracking, with another 300 suppliers in the process of implementing the technology. Using insight gained from U.S. deployments, Gallagher adds, Wal-Mart Canada will take a small, measured approach. "Our goal is to do it right, rather than fast." By keeping the participants down to about 16, she says, Wal-Mart Canada's two-member RFID team will be able to provide stores the assistance they need throughout the pilot.

The pilot is expected to run through 2007 and does not have a scheduled follow-up phase. Suppliers will apply EPC Gen 2 tags to cases and pallets of goods before shipping them, and interrogate the tags at the warehouse door as the product leaves. When the shipment reaches the Wal-Mart distribution center, each case or pallet tag will be read at the dock doors. The tags will then be read again when pallets and cases are shipped from the DC to individual Wal-Mart stores. At each store, the tags will be interrogated at the dock door and in the hallway leading from the back-room storage area to the sales floor. Two interrogators will be installed at the store's trash compactor and cardboard box bailer, allowing suppliers and Wal-Mart to verify that a case has reached the end of the supply chain.

All RFID data will be shared with the suppliers by Wal-Mart through its Retail Link Web site. "It will give them visibility at dwelling points," Gallagher says, allowing suppliers to see if a case is delayed at one location. There is no Wal-Mart Canada mandate, she notes, and the retailer has no formal plans or timeline for implementing RFID technology with all its suppliers.
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