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Wal-Mart lays out plan to roll out RFID tags

Just weeks into its initial test of electronic product coding in north Texas, Wal-Mart has laid out an implementation plan covering the next 18 months.

The trial under way now involves radio frequency tagging on cases and pallets of 21 products from eight suppliers that are being shipped to a distribution center in Sanger, Texas, and then on to seven local supercenters. Wal-Mart's top 100 suppliers and 37 other volunteers are already working toward going live with RFID in north Texas by January 2005.

Last week in meetings with its top 300 suppliers, the retailer unveiled additional plans. By June 2005, the initial testing group of 137 will be RFID live in up to six DCs and 250 Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs. Four months later, live DCs will expand to 13 and live stores to 600 Wal-Marts and Sam's.

In January 2006, the next group of top 200 suppliers is to begin tagging cases and palettes, the company said.

"We're seeing the positive results we expected," said Linda Dillman, executive vice president and chief information officer for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., referring to the test group launched April 30.

The company expects the number of suppliers tagging cases and pallets for the pilot to expand every few weeks and predicted shoppers may soon notice products displaying the EPCglobal symbol. In a nod to consumers' concerns about privacy violations, Wal-Mart said that when tags are carried on packag-ing, shoppers will have the choice of disposing of the tag after making their purchase.

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