These are exciting times in the world of RFID. There has been a lot of media attention in the retail sector surrounding the Wal-Mart announcement at the recent Retail Systems conference in Chicago.
In case you missed it, Wal-Mart announced its commitment to RFID, while also stating it will be requiring pallet-level and carton-level tagging by the end of 2006 for their top 100 suppliers. Linda Dillman, CIO of Wal-Mart, made the announcement in a presentation before a standing room only audience.
Dillman's remarks included some very positive statements about the potential of RFID in the retail supply chain, and many benefits derived from in-store, on-the-shelf use of RFID.
At the distribution level, she outlined many of the challenges that Wal-Mart faces on a daily basis, and described how RFID can greatly assist its inventory planning, allow faster demand response, provide a more accurate accounting of inventory, while also increasing efficiency. In the retail store, Ms. Dillman stated that item-level tagging is a bit off in the future, but her vision of how RFID can be beneficial in the store included a reduction of out-of-stock conditions, better in-store product tracking, loss prevention, and ultimately (although still off in the future), self check-out.
Even with all the great expectations that RFID brings to the retail sector, Ms. Dillman explained that there were still a lot of obstacles to overcome, including tag performance, reader form factors and performance, infrastructure and data management - not to mention tag and reader pricing.
Still her speech was a huge endorsement of RFID technology, and by setting a date in the future, she challenged both manufacturers of RFID products and Wal-Mart suppliers to aim at the target.