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Wal-Mart, DOD Point to Sustained Progress

Leaders of the two flagship EPC users say they are not backing off their respective RFID efforts, and that both organizations have made "sustained progress."
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 20, 2008At last week's EPC Connection 2008 conference in Chicago, Carolyn Walton, VP of information systems for Wal-Mart Stores, and Alan Estevez, principal assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), both reaffirmed their organizations' commitment to deploying RFID technology, asserting that their respective efforts are not losing steam.

At a panel discussion moderated by RFID Journal founder and editor Mark Roberti, Walton said she'd anticipated being questioned about her company's resolve, and offered a rundown on the status of the retailer's RFID deployment: About 1,300 of the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores her company operates within the United States, she said—about one third of its total U.S. locations—are RFID-enabled, as are several distribution centers, "so expansion is continuing."

Carolyn Walton
At last year's EPC Connection conference, Walton unveiled a new, three-pronged deployment strategy the retailer had devised to home in on where it perceived the most value in receiving RFID-tagged products (see Wal-Mart, Sam's Club Push RFID Further Along). One part of this strategy was to begin asking suppliers for Wal-Mart stores to tag cases of items in specific categories, because a pilot project bore this out as being a particularly good means of improving sales across such categories by ensuring better inventory accuracy (see Wal-Mart-Commissioned Study Shows RFID Improves Store Inventory Accuracy).

Walton also announced, at last week's conference, that Wal-Mart plans to continue rolling out this targeted tagging initiative. "Our next move will be to expand tagging in 13 product categories across seven departments, tagging at the case level," she said. The products will range widely in type, she added—"everything from toys to home furnishings." According to Walton, select suppliers will begin tagging cases in these product categories starting next month, with more suppliers set to be added throughout the end of the year.

In addition, Walton told attendees that her company has created a special council of Sam's Club suppliers with whom it plans to share metrics and other data regarding the deployment of RFID tracking in Sam's Club stores. These suppliers will receive this information before it is publicly disseminated.

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