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Wal-Mart's EPC project rolling along

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Five months into its electronic product code (EPC) pilot program, Wal-Mart is giving the go-ahead to suppliers interested in getting a jump-start on the January 2005 milestone.

"They're ready, we're ready, there is no need to wait," said Carolyn Walton, Wal-Mart's Information Systems Division vice president responsible for the project's implementation. "I sometimes get the feeling that people think we are going to flip some gigantic switch on Jan. 1 and tagged cases and pallets will appear from more than 100 suppliers."

This past June, the retailer launched a trail of tagging on cases and pallets of 21 products from eight suppliers at a distribution center inSanger,Texas, and seven local supercenters. Wal-Mart's top 100 suppliers and 37 other volunteers at the time were working toward going in northTexasby January 2005.

The company originally planned to expand the program with the 137 suppliers to six DCs and 250 Wal-Mart Stores and Sam's Clubs by June 2005. In January 2006, another 100 top suppliers are scheduled to begin tagging their cases and pallets.

"Instead, as we anticipated, suppliers are coming to us and asking to get into the game before the milestone happens," Walton continued. "We welcome their enthusiasm and participation."

As part of the initial implementation, by January, Wal-Mart will expand to three the number of EPC-equipped distribution centers in North Texas . At the same time, it will also increase the number of participating stores from seven to more than 130. Most of these will be located in North Texas . Others will be located in the south central Oklahoma region.

This fall, the first Sam's Club location will feature EPC capabilities. The location will be the company's first retail facility outside its Wal-Mart Supercenters to use the technology.

Sam's Club will abide by the same EPCglobal consumer guidelines of consumer notification and choice. Price signs will include EPCglobal symbols when a tagged case or pallet is available. In the Sam's Club merchandising model, it is more likely that an individual could select to purchase an entire case or pallet of product, according to Wal-Mart.

Members who choose to purchase these products can keep the tag or remove it post-purchase.

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