Metro Group plans to be first with RFID

Retail Metro Group used the National Retail Federation's annual trade show to announce that it intends to beat Wal-Mart's 2005...

Retail Metro Group used the National Retail Federation's annual trade show to announce that it intends to beat Wal-Mart's 2005 deadline to get its stores and suppliers RFID-enabled.

Germany's Metro Group, the fifth largest retailer in the world, with more than 2,300 stores, is planning to beat Wal-Mart and become the first retailer to use RFID throughout its supply chain.

The company, which owns the Makro cash and carry chain in the UK, aims to have 100 suppliers, 250 stores and 10 warehouses using RFID by November 2004. US retail giant Wal-Mart has a January 2005 target date.

The announcement was made at the National Retail Federation's annual trade show in the US last week.

The Metro roll-out, which is being implemented by IBM, follows the success of the company's Future Store, which opened in Rheinberg last year as a "living laboratory" for retail technology innovations.

At the Future Store, RFID is embedded in every part of the supply chain including tags on products and cases; readers at distribution centres; in the warehouse on shelves; and in shopping baskets.

Gerd Wolfram, project manager of the Metro Group Future Store initiative, said, "We see RFID as a crucial technology for the future of retailing. We hope to make significant strides in the establishment of international standards for RFID technology."

The first step of the company-wide project, which involves IT companies including IBM, Intel and SAP and more than 40 additional consumer goods and technology suppliers, is the establishment of an RFID test laboratory.

Wal-Mart has mandated that its top 100 suppliers must be using RFID on cases and pallets by January 2005 with the rest to follow in 2006. It said at the show that the timescale it had laid down was realistic.

Lee Scott, Wal-Mart president and chief executive, told the conference that its suppliers were "very positive" about the timescale, but he said that Wal-Mart would pull back if suppliers were struggling.

Suppliers reveal their RFID plans at National Retail Federation show 

  • SAP announced it will release an RFID package for capturing data and automating processes by the middle of the year. Built on the SAP Web Application Server and incorporating other SAP modules, the product is being used by pilot customers. 
  • Sun Microsystems said it is developing a portfolio of RFID hardware and services, with the aim of a launch in the second quarter of this year. It also announced plans to open RFID testing centres in Dallas and Scotland. 
  • Microsoft unveiled its "Smarter Retailing Initiative", a framework for developing standards-based tools to improve the retail experience. It is backed by 20 partners, including Accenture, which has developed a self-scanning system and trolley assistant. 
  • Microsoft also said it would continue developing its retail-focused software, anchored by the Windows XP Embedded operating system it introduced in late 2001. The system is used in more than 300,000 point-of-sale terminals worldwide.  
  • IBM used the show to highlight a new point-of-sale operating system from SuSE Linux.  
  • Symbol Technologies introduced a web-enabled self-service kiosk, which retailers can use to offer employees or customers on-floor access to information on product pricing, ordering and inventory data.  
  • Middleware supplier Tibco Software and RFID hardware maker Alien Technology unveiled plans for a mid-2004 release of a jointly developed system for linking business processes with RFID-generated events.

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