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Metro Group to Roll Out RFID at up to 150 Sites

Speaking at RFID Journal LIVE! Europe, MGI Metro Group Information Technology's Christian Plenge elaborated on the retailer's progress and plans regarding EPC Gen 2 RFID deployments.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 26, 2006After testing five generations of the technology for more than two years, German retailer Metro Group is ready to roll out so-called dock-door RFID technology. The rollout is slated to occur at about 150 locations by the middle of next year, said Christian Plenge, head of research and innovation at MGI Metro Group Information Technology.

"We have achieved a level of maturity in the technology that has so dramatically improved in the last six months that we at Metro have decided to roll out the technology on dock-door receiving gates next year," Plenge told attendees on the first day of the RFID Journal LIVE! Europe conference, held at a seaside town outside of Amsterdam. "We have communicated this to some of our suppliers."

Christian Plenge addresses visitors to RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2006.
Dock-door RFID technology is used at the point where goods are unloaded from a truck's dock and through the door of the warehouse—for example, the gate for incoming and outgoing goods. Readers at the gate interrogate tags on pallets and pass the information to Metro's merchandise-management system. This allows the retailer to reconcile automatically the ordered goods with those actually delivered, rather than using an error-prone manual system.

Metro, one of the world's largest retailers and an RFID leader in Europe, is using Gen 2 Electronic Product Code (EPC) interrogators from Intermec and Sirit Technologies (see Metro Group Moves Forward with Gen 2). Plenge said Metro employs RFID tags from a number of different suppliers, depending on the project, but wouldn't specify which ones.

According to Plenge, Metro is working to refine other RFID-enabled steps in the logistics process, such as RFID-outfitted forklifts, which have moved from the feasibility and prototype stages to the test stage, as well as promotion tracking, also in the test phase.

RFID-enabled forklifts are utilized to pick up RFID-labeled pallets. After a reader on the forklift interrogates the pallet's tag, the driver is instructed where to unload the pallet. The system then confirms that goods have been placed in the proper high-rack storage area, helping prevent the misplacement of goods.

Plenge said that getting RFID to work on forklifts has been plagued with trouble. "Most of them don't work," he said, adding that Metro is now testing the fourth generation of the RFID-enabled forklifts.

Promotion tracking with RFID allows for improved promotion management by informing store managers as to which promotion displays are set up in which stores. "This gives us lots of insight into how the promotions are handled at the various sites," he explained.

Step by step, Metro is implementing a strategy to deploy RFID throughout the supply chain over the next 10 years—from the production of goods to shelf management. This is not a small task, given the group's diverse types of stores—ranging from electronics to grocery stores. Hence, different RFID readers and tags will be needed to handle the merchandise.

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