Wal-Mart's CIO Dishes on RFID at NRFTech Conference

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 08-09-2006
SAN DIEGO—Wal-Mart's philosophy for its stores is deceptively simple: right product, right place, right time.

Rollin Ford, the company's new CIO—he was assigned to the top tech job in April—reiterated that Wal-Mart plans to use RFID, in part, to help the massive retailer achieve its goals.

"As I took the helm of CIO I got a lot of phone calls; people wanted to know if we would stay the course, if we would continue to be as aggressive with RFID," said Ford, who delivered the keynote address Aug. 8 at the National Retail Federation's NRFTech 2006 conference here in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego.

"We certainly will," he said.

Wal-Mart—arguably the world's largest retailer with 6,601 stores and 240 distribution centers worldwide (221 are in the United States)—has been the standard bearer for RFID in the retail sector.

In 2004 the company put forth a back-handed mandate to its top 100 suppliers: RFID-enable cases and pallets of goods, or look elsewhere to do business.

Currently, the Bentonville, Ark., retailer has five distribution centers, 475 Wal-Mart Stores, 36 Sam's Clubs and more than 300 suppliers RFID-enabled.

That means stores have the capacity to read incoming RFID tags, and track goods that have been tagged from suppliers from the back room to the store shelf. It also means having the infrastructure in place at the distribution centers to read the RFID-tagged cases and pallets of goods sent to Wal-Mart, and in some cases integrating with those suppliers to transmit RFID data back through the pipeline.

Speaking to a crowd of retail technology executives, Ford said Wal-Mart has seen some good initial results for all its investment around RFID: a 26 percent reduction in out of stocks in the stores with RFID capabilities, and out of stock items that are replenished three times faster than those items not RFID tagged.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Wal-Mart's CIO Dishes on RFID at NRFTech Conference