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Coverall Maker Adds RFID to Its Shipping Process

Walls Industries, which sells work and hunting clothes, expects to benefit internally by integrating tagging into its warehouse-management system.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
For the order pickers, the picking process will remain the same, except that for Wal-Mart orders, they will be directed to retrieve the shipping labels from a new bank of Paxar RFID printer-encoders. While Walls will be required to add RFID labels only to a portion of the 425 SKUs it ships to Wal-Mart, the company has decided to begin tagging all SKUs it sells to the retailer.

For the first year, Walls plans to use 1 million RFID labels to cover both the initial and replenishing cases of product, as well as the pallet labels. Tom Felton, chief information officer at Walls Industries, says the company decided to tag all cases of goods headed for Wal-Mart, instead of only those falling under the mandate, because having to divert a portion of its goods for tagging would add labor and costs to its shipping process. Moreover, by tagging all cases shipped to Wal-Mart, the company can track their receipt into Wal-Mart's distribution centers and retail stores by accessing Wal-Mart's Retail Link Web site. Retail Link provides feedback on when and where tagged product is received, as well as when it is brought out to the stores' sales floors.

The addition of RFID to Walls' shipping process will also provide an important internal benefit: As the pallet loads of initial shipments and replenishment shipments are loaded onto outbound trucks, portal interrogators (readers) stationed around the truck will read the tags and confirm that each corresponding case or pallet has been loaded onto the vehicle. With RFID, "we'll have better visibility of our product as it goes out our door," says Felton. "If Wal-Mart says it never received something, we'll have the power of showing them that the tagged cases went onto the truck [and shipped from our warehouse]."

Walls Industries will also integrate the EPCs it generates into the advance shipment notice (ASN) it sends to Wal-Mart electronically as each shipment leaves its warehouse. Wal-Mart will use the ASNs to receive the shipments and confirm that each case and pallet is received.

According to Felton, the cost of RFID tags is still too high to merit tagging and tracking individual garments. Still, he says he is working with Manhattan Associates to ensure that the architecture of the RFID system is flexible and can accommodate item-level tagging, or the tagging of product headed for other retailers, in the future.

The Alien Technology EPC Gen 2 interrogators Walls plans to use, as well as the EPC Manager software, are currently being installed at the Walls warehouse, and testing of the tagging system will commence in the coming weeks. Felton says the Paxar smart labels Walls will contain Alien EPC Gen 2 inlays.

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