Wal-Mart, Target to Discuss EPC

By Bob Violino

The CIOs of Wal-Mart and Target will sit down with senior executives from Kimberly-Clark and Hewlett-Packard to discuss RFID at Retail Systems 2004/VICS Collaborative Commerce event in Chicago in May.


On May 18, Wal-Mart’s CIO, Linda Dillman, and her counterpart at rival Target, Paul Singer, will sit down with Mike O’Shea, director of Auto ID/RFID strategies and technology at Kimberly-Clark, and Dick Lampman, director of research at Hewlett-Packard, to discuss the future of RFID. The “Fireside Chat about RFID” will be held at the Retail Systems 2004/VICS Collaborative Commerce event in Chicago, from May 17 to 19.

Linda Dillman

“The fireside chat was the idea of the two top retailers in North America, who want to demonstrate unanimity on the major issues around the EPCglobal system at the retail industry’s major trade show,” says Tom Friedman, president of Retail Systems Alert Group, which puts on the Retail Systems Conference & Exposition each year. “They invited key suppliers to participate in the dialogue, to broaden the discussion beyond a retail perspective.”

Among the topics the high-powered group is expected to discuss are why Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology will transform the retail value chain, why EPC will achieve its fullest potential only when it becomes ubiquitous, how companies are collaborating to ensure global standards are achieved and a common approach is taken, and why early adopters will have an advantage over companies that wait to deploy the technology.

Wal-Mart has been a pioneer in pushing the adoption of RFID. The technology began to get attention from the mainstream business media only after Dillman announced at last year’s Retail Systems event that Wal-Mart would require its top 100 suppliers to put tags on pallets and cases beginning January 2005 (see Wal-Mart Draws Line in the Sand).

In February, Target informed its suppliers that it would require them to put EPC tags on pallets and cases beginning in spring 2005 (see Target Issues RFID Mandate). Kimberly-Clark was involved in the Auto-ID Center and has been working out how to deploy RFID in its supply chain to improve efficiencies. O’Shea is cochair of EPCglobal’s User Action Group, which is defining the needs of end users so that those needs can be incorporated into the specifications for EPC technologies.

Hewlett-Packard is both an end user and a vendor. It has been developing an RFID tracking platform for warehouses (see HP Designs Tracking System). And it recently announced that it would require overseas partners making its printers to tag shipments to HP distribution centers.

The panel is one of the highlights of the conference, which is being held in Chicago’s McCormick Place. Mike Duke, executive vice president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores USA, will deliver a keynote speech entitled “RFID: Shaping the Future.” There will also be a roundtable discussion on the best practices for implementing RFID, and there will be an RFID Futures Showcase on the show floor.

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