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Tagging Sellable Units

Sam's Club has spelled out an aggressive timetable for item-level tracking. Help is at hand, so suppliers can successfully tag a wide variety of products and achieve internal benefits.
By Mark Roberti
But Sam's is clearly serious about moving quickly toward tracking sellable units. The good news is, there's more help available now than when Wal-Mart first announced it would require its top 100 suppliers to begin tagging pallets and cases by January 2005. RFID Journal has been working with EPCglobal to educate suppliers at EPC Connection 2008, the organization's fifth annual conference and exhibition, which will be held Oct. 14-16 in Chicago.

A special preconference seminar, EPC Compliance & Benefits Training, will help companies understand the basics of what they need to do to become EPC-compliant. This will include how to associate EPCs with the correct product, find the right place to put the RFID tag and link the EPC tagging operation with their back end, and will touch on the value of the data suppliers get back from their retail partners.

There also will be a two-day Implementation Track that will go into greater depth about integrating EPC tagging systems with back-end systems to automate the tagging process (slap and ship is not an option when you're tagging large numbers of individual items). This track will offer insights into how early adopters managed the complexity of high-volume tagging operations. It will explain what suppliers can do with the EPC data they receive back from their retail partners, and there will be a question-and-answer session to address the issues on attendees' minds.

In addition, RFID Journal is producing a Guide to Meeting Sam's Club's RFID EPC Tagging Requirements, which will provide detailed information on how to meet tagging requirements cost-effectively. This step-by-step guide will cover everything from setting up a team and creating a plan to integrating EPC tagging with IT and manufacturing systems. It will also reveal how and where to tag specific categories of sellable units.

All EPC Connection attendees will receive the guide for free, so they can return to their company with a document detailing everything they need to do to become compliant. This should help companies get up the learning curve quickly. Once they understand what they need to do, they can create a plan, evaluate vendors and move quickly to implement tagging at the sellable unit, as well as work to achieve internal benefits.

Given what we've learned since the first wave of suppliers began tagging for Wal-Mart in 2005, I think it is possible to meet the aggressive sellable unit deadline—provided companies don't make the mistake of thinking the requirement will go away if they just do nothing. From what I can see, Sam's is serious about this, and smart firms will begin working toward compliance today.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.

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