Metro Group, DHL to Roll Out RFID in France

By Rhea Wessel

The rollout—which the companies claim is the largest French retail deployment—will provide Metro with a better understanding of shipment flow, while also helping reduce delays.

Metro Group and DHL have announced that beginning in fall 2008, the two companies plan to equip all pallets shipped to the 89 Metro Cash & Carry (MCC) stores in France with radio frequency identification transponders. Some 1.3 million pallets will be tagged each year, thereby speeding the delivery process and facilitating the collection of data regarding shipments. The companies claim this will provide managers a better understanding of shipment flow, as well as help them avoid shipment delays.

According to DHL and Metro, the rollout is the largest deployment of RFID technology in French retail logistics, representing the end of the "pilot era" of RFID applications. The firms decided to work together to test the process of conducting a countrywide rollout, and chose France because DHL is Metro's sole logistics provider in that country.

At five DHL food logistics centers in France, DHL will equip all pre-packed pallets destined for the self-service wholesale stores with UPM Raflatac Dogbone tags. Bar codes will be employed as a backup to the RFID tags, which comply with the EPCglobal Gen 2 standard.

The tags will be read when shipments are loaded onto trucks to depart the logistics centers, and again as they arrive at the recipient's facilities. Metro is utilizing Sirit readers with portals from Checkpoint Systems. Approximately 100 readers will be deployed in the 89 stores, the partners explain, and a significant number will be deployed at DHL's five distribution centers.

"All RFID hardware in the stores is identical to the hardware used for the rollout in Germany," a Metro spokesman said in an interview conducted via e-mail. For details regarding the company's German deployment, see Metro Fleshes Out Its RFID Plans.

After the tags are read, the data collected will be transmitted to individual stores so they can know the status of specific deliveries. In addition, the information amassed via RFID will be compared to order data to be sure shipments are accurate. After the tags traverse the supply chain, DHL employs will then dispose of them.

Work on the project began in 2005, and implementation of hardware and software commenced in the beginning of 2008, according to Andreas Kruse, division manager for industry standards at Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN), which owns DHL. The project, Kruse said, is important for DPWN because this is the first time the logistics provider is implementing and operating a large-scale RFID application on behalf of one of its customers.

"It was important to establish the project in line with EPCglobal and [DPWN] Group standards so that we can scale this type of solution for other retailers and other industries," Kruse said, adding, "We wanted a coherent solution."

DPWN performed careful testing and tuning of the system during the development phase, Kruse noted, to ensure that the system would be reliable and could be easily replicated. Metro was the first retail company to join DHL's Innovation Initiative, and DHL has been a partner of the Metro Group Future Store Initiative since 2004.