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Wal-Mart links RFID, sustainability

According to the retailer, RFID can help reduce greenhouse gases.

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Among the issues that consumer-packaged goods have had to grapple with the past months have been RFID (radio-frequency identification) and sustainability, with retailer Wal-Mart factoring in heavily as a driving force on both those fronts. Now, in a recent speech, a Wal-Mart executive has linked those two seemingly diverse issues.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Bentonville, AR, continues to expand its RFID capability to additional facilities, enabling an additional 400 Wal-Mart stores by the end of this fiscal year, Wal-Mart executive vice president and CIO Rollin Ford. Ford spoke during the recent RFID Journal ( Live! 2007 conference in Orlando, FL. Ford also discussed the technology’s current and future benefits to both business and consumers including broad benefits for improving sustainability.

“Through RFID technology, Wal-Mart is providing value to customers, working with our suppliers to deliver collaborative benefits that allow people to save money and lead better lives,” Ford said. “We have only gotten started, and we are continuing to rollout to more stores at the same rate as the last two years.”

RFID advancements at Sam's Club

Ford said current benefits include a 30 percent reduction of out-of-stocks, reduction of excess inventory in the supply chain, and sustainability impacts. Ford also outlined advancements including pallet locators now being used at Sam’s Club locations—increasing inventory accuracy and reduced member waiting time—as well as future benefits in pharmacy accuracy, grocery freshness, software, CD and DVD authentication, and 30-second store checkouts.

“Our focus on using RFID to improve in-stocks for our customers means eliminating extra trips they may make to our store, or to others,” he said. “On a daily basis, more than 24 million people shop our stores. If 100,000 extra trips are avoided by having items in stock, we will save customers $22.8 million a year in gas savings and reduce greenhouse gases by 80,209 metric tons.”

Ford also described future innovations that could be made possible with RFID. “In the near future, customers may be able to enjoy advantages such as automatic warranty activation on electronics, freshness assurance on foods thanks to cold chain monitoring, and enhanced product safety as a result of faster, more accurate recalls and better freshness monitoring."
-Rick Lingle


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