Wal-Mart’s President Says EPC RFID Strategy Is Working

At the Goldman Sachs Retail Conference, Bill Simon spoke briefly about the retailer's use of radio frequency identification.
Published: September 16, 2010

Bill Simon, president and COO of Wal-Mart Stores, spoke yesterday at the Goldman Sachs Retail Conference 2010, held in New York. Simon touched briefly on the retailer’s use of radio frequency identification tags based on the Electronic Product Code (EPC) standards.

In discussing what the company has done right, Simon said: “Our process discipline and inventory management is excellent and continues to be excellent, and we will focus on process improvements and driving operational standards. In fact, many of you might have read about our Electronic Product Code (EPC) program that is rolling out to 3,000 stores in our men’s apparel area. These are little radio frequency ID RFID tags that are attached to the apparel that allow us to—in an instant, with the pull of a trigger or the scan of a reader—inventory a back room or a rack of apparel for size, color and presentation. It will allow us to take an all-day task of counting and restocking, say, jeans or men’s pants down to an hour or so, giving us the ability to more efficiently, more productively stay in stock and drive sales, serving our customers.”

A bit later on, Simon stated: “So just to be clear, there has been a lot said and a lot written. I prefer to say, rather than returning to the past, we are moving forward, building on what has worked. And we’ve learned a lot. As I said, we are a learning organization. We have many, many years of history in Walmart practices and principles that allow us to build on that success, and we are doing that.”

Simon was not referring specifically to the company’s false starts with EPC RFID technology (see Wal-Mart CIO Still ‘Bullish’ on RFID, Wal-Mart Relaunches EPC RFID Effort, Starting With Men’s Jeans and Basics, Wal-Mart Takes a New Approach to RFID and Putting Wal-Mart’s Apparel Tagging in Context), but he might well have been. It is refreshing to see a large company that continues to innovate when things don’t go perfectly, that learns from its mistakes and that strives continually to improve its operations.

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 the Editor’s Note archive.