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Wal-Mart's Faltering RFID Initiative

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the under-chipped dept.

Communications 130

itphobe writes "Baseline magazine has up an in-depth look at Wal-Mart's years-old RFID initiative. Things apparently haven't gone so well for the retail giant. 'The lack of any obvious concrete gains has raised questions as to whether Wal-Mart should delay or freeze its RFID plans. For now, however, Wal-Mart says it will stay the course ... By January 2006 the company hoped to have as many as 12 of its roughly 130 distribution centers fully outfitted with RFID. That effort stalled at just five distribution centers. Instead, the company is now focusing on implementing RFID in stores fed by those five distribution centers so it can gain a bigger window into its supply chain.' Overall the article focuses on the original intentions of the RFID project vs. their implementation. It also discusses several of the technical elements required to adapt RFID for the US juggernaut."

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1 get (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20858929)

First comment.

good strategery, Wal-Mart (3, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20858983)

For now, however, Wal-Mart says it will stay the course ...

Ah, yes, because we all know how well "staying the course" works out.

Re:good strategery, Wal-Mart (1)

Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859023)

Worked for the Titanic, the juggernaut of the seas.
Why not for the juggernaut of the cheap-s*^t distributors?

Re:good strategery, Wal-Mart (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862177)

Worked for the Titanic, the juggernaut of the seas.

Some experts believe that if Titanic had "stayed the course" when the iceberg was sighted, rather than trying to turn, the impact would have damaged only the forward part of the ship, leaving her seaworthy enough to make port.

Re:good strategery, Wal-Mart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859191)

unfortunately, just like other very large companies, Walmart has enough money to throw at RFID to make it ""work"" and by "work" I mean annoy their customers in favor of Walmart's financial gain.

I LOVE WAL-MART SOO MUUUCH!!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859331)

I love the Wal-Mart Greeters! They usually look like recovering crack addicts, but they ALWAYS give me a Wal-Mart Smiley sticker! :D

And Wal-Mart gives me the highest quality and the lowest price! :D

I buy all my computers at Wal-Mart!

My Wal-Mart Acer laptop is awesome! I set it down on my desk a little hard and it only broke the hinge! Other than that, it runs LINUX PERFECTLY!!! (except that it kernel panics a lot and both the wireless and network don't work.)

I LOVE WAL-MART SO MUCH!!!

Re:I LOVE WAL-MART SOO MUUUCH!!!! (2, Insightful)

jombeewoof (1107009) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859847)

I love the Wal-Mart Greeters! They usually look like recovering crack addicts, but they ALWAYS give me a Wal-Mart Smiley sticker! :D
 
You get recovering crack addicts!!! You must be in a much wealthier part of the country.

Re:I LOVE WAL-MART SOO MUUUCH!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20860249)

Welcome to Wal-Mart, get yer crap and get out!

Re:good strategery, Wal-Mart (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859549)

As the RFIDs stand up, we will stand down.

Re:good strategery, Wal-Mart (1)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859911)

I have a feeling "stay the course" isn't a direct quote, but that's beside the point.

If a technology still have a high potential to provide a good ROI, it may not be bad to continue working with it. It's clear they've altered course, but are still working with the technology.

Re:good strategery, Wal-Mart (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20862263)

Missing the point!

The reason WMart wanted RFID was so that they could run as much of the company as possible on a consignment basis - with title for the product not being transfered until a consumer buys it - that way WMART never has to park any money in stocked products. They do a limited form of this method now, but RFID was going to virtually eliminate the time they would "own" the product to be resold.

Crazy, greedy way-too-clever rat bastards. They will get RFID rolled out sooner or later - not because it's good for the vendor or consumer, but because it's good for them.

Fuck Walmart (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859013)

Who gives a shit about those evil bastards?

They can take their RFID and stick it up their employee raping asses.

Re:Fuck Walmart (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859189)

Why is the parent modded "flamebait"? Do you really think someone here is going to violently come to Wal-Mart's defense?

Re:Fuck Walmart (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859481)

This is modded flamebait because moderators are fucking morons. For every person that knows what to do with their mod points we have 5 petulent cock-gobblers would be better off dead.

This is why we waste their mod points.

Go on, mod this down, you worthless sack of shit. One less mod point for you to misuse.

Why don't you... (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#20865843)

... give me some evidence why 5 out of 6 mods are "petulant cock-gobblers"? Or at leas a reason why they're "fucking morons"? It wouldn't be because, perhaps, you don't agree with some (or a lot) of their decisions, or because you've expressed extreme views before, and been modded flamebait, would it?

Re:Fuck Walmart (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859583)

Why is the parent modded "flamebait"? Do you really think someone here is going to violently come to Wal-Mart's defense?
1: Fuck yeah. Wal-Mart is evil, but RFID isn't. I'm sick and fucking tired of a new technology being held up by anti-technology "privacy" luddites. Especially in the fucking tech sector.

2: doesn't matter if anyone responds or not, flamebait's flamebait.

3: :)

Re:Fuck Walmart (1)

nilbud (1155087) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860923)

So if it doesn't matter if anyone responds then what's the point? This sites post rating system is the worst ever.

5 cent tags (4, Interesting)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859021)

It's been predicted for years: the cost of an RFID tag will drop to 5 cents and the world will be revolutionized. I did some calculations years ago, and 5 cents seems to be about the point at which the cost of the tag on every item is worth the benefits gained in inventory tracking.
But the price seems frozen at 10 cents. And that is the cheapest tags in HUGE quantities. For a small business like mine, 20 cents seems to be the current rate.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

jack455 (748443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859731)

I'm buying a RFID reader and going to start scanning everything I buy or receive as a gift. I don't want strangers knowing what I wear/own. That 5-10 cents will also prevent a sale in my case anyway.

Re:5 cent tags (3, Insightful)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859901)

The reasonable cost-per-tag really depends on what you're tagging. If you're tagging flat panel TVs 20c/tag is perfectly reasonable. If you're doing item-level tagging on tupperware, even 5c/tag is too much. Unfortunately ultra-cheap items where the manufacturer's margins are super tight are the norm in Wal*Mart stores, so for most of them, 10-20c is way too much.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 6 years ago | (#20861591)

Tupperware [tupperware.com] is actually rather expensive for what it is.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860397)

Even at 5 cents per tag how would this compete with simple barcode scanning which is dirt cheap (i.e. one time capital investment in scanning equipment...which you have to do with RFID too and then software or hardware and printer w/ink to print barcodes or label paper)? If everything is scanned when it goes into or out of your warehouse or scanned at the checkout stand in retail sales then the inventory should always be accurate and up to date in the database (at least to some tolerable margin of error). I suppose that it is possible for there to be miscounts of smaller items in larger boxes when they come into the warehouse or there might be theft or loss of some small number of items but how large would these discrepancies have to become before it became worth it to pay 5 cents per tag to catch them (assuming that you could get that price)? It seems to me that the people who are most bullish about RFID are invariably the people trying to sell it.

Re:5 cent tags (5, Informative)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862361)

I write retail and warehousing software for a company every American knows.

Have you ever seen work at a warehouse, or at the back of many retail stores? The number of mis-scans, duplicates and such can be pretty significant. Companies account for this by doing physical inventories, which have a substantial labor cost. And those physicals end up disagreeing with sanity check recounts by up to 2%! In a store that has a significant cost per item, a 5 cent tag would be a cheap price to pay to get rid of most of the physical inventory costs and increase the efficiency of inventory control. At $20c, it eats into margins too much for most.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20863067)

Somebody mod parent up. I couldn't have said it better.

Re:5 cent tags (2, Interesting)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 6 years ago | (#20864203)

I worked in the warehouse of a furniture store and half our time was spent beating our head against the inventory tracking system and looking for barcodes. RFID chips embedded in the furniture would have made our job easier. Also a system that actually worked wold have been nince, it's the first system that I've ever seen that will tell me it's "probably" done.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20864243)

a 5 cent tag would be a cheap price to pay to get rid of most of the physical inventory costs and increase the efficiency of inventory control

Alright, but from what other people have pointed out in this discussion RFID has its own set of problems so even if you could get 5 cents per tag, how would you prevent the RFID errors from being just about as bad (i.e. not all tags in the box respond to the ping, certain items in the box interfere with the signals, etc) as the barcodes? Perhaps even more important, what is keeping the price at $0.20 and is that ever likely to come down? Certain materials like metals for antennas and other commodities associated with RFID production probably have some relatively stable and fixed long term costs for example.

BTW: In answer to your previous question I once worked for a company that dabbled in integrating RFID into an existing warehousing solution that was being sold on a consulting basis at the request of one particular customer, but it proved to be too expensive to be worthwhile in practice. That was a while back now, but the price per tag was actually closer to $0.50 cents back then and the better types, the ones that could transmit more than a 24 bit integer code, were still quite expensive indeed going all the way up to several hundred dollar apiece smart transponders (probably the kind that one would put on shipping containers).

Re:5 cent tags (1)

bentcd (690786) | more than 6 years ago | (#20864897)

Certain materials like metals for antennas and other commodities associated with RFID production probably have some relatively stable and fixed long term costs for example.
Generally speaking, metals have become substantially more expensive over the last several years - as is the case with most other raw materials. Many put this down to the growth of China.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860509)

I'm surprised that the price is still at 5 cents, even with Chinese production. They're very clever at getting the price down on everything, and when I used Chinese factories the price reductions were small and continual. If the price is stuck, maybe there needs to be some competition on the production side of things. That might indicate an opening that another market player could take advantage of. Anyways, I predict that the price will eventually start dropping again when the market corrects.

Re:5 cent tags (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#20863905)

So decreasing the gain of each product sold by 10c doesn't outdo the "damage" by shoplifters? But 5c is ok? Why not raise the price by 5c and decrease the profit by 5c. It may seem foolish, as customers ARE silly enough to shop at a different place because an advertised price is literally 5c higher, but at the same time people like Walmart shouldn't have to worry--they are already pretty much set in the public mind as "CHEAP CRAP" even if they were to raise by 15c.

Although in a few years, their image might change with these new prices...

But in a few years...the chips will be cheap enough that they can go back...

Of course cooperations and the economy never work like this...

Intimate Walmart/RFID info (2, Interesting)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859059)

My good friend works for the world's largest bicycle distribution companies, feeding Walmart amongst others. He has said a lot to me about RFID and the way it works in the field, as he has to deal with how everything works at a product distribution standpoint.

In a nutshell, he says it's CRAP, AND IT DOESN'T WORK.

That is all.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (2, Funny)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859269)

Well, sir, if your FRIEND said it than it must be true. The guy who welded my bicycle knows everything there is to know about RFID, after all.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (2, Informative)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859401)

RTFC, dippie. Bicycle DISTRIBUTION company, not bicycle MANUFACTURER.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859663)

Even worse! He's just some wage-earner stock boy! At least a welder has a skill...

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860143)

Ah, well that makes all the difference, if only I hadn't commented I'd go up and mark you +5 insightful.

That first issue your friend raised is a really important one, and it sure does lower the effectiveness, and he's certainly right about the other thing he said. I'm not sure I agree with his analysis of the ROI of tagging kids bikes, but otherwise he seems very informed.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (2, Funny)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859335)

My good friend works for the world's largest bicycle distribution companies, feeding Walmart amongst others.
Sounds like he works for Huffy. He should be used to crap that doesn't work :)

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860435)

Have they stopped using the "made in America" imagery now that they are building them all in China?

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (4, Insightful)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859579)

Having worked IT for JCPenney, we heard a lot about RFID. The concept behind RFID is the holy mantra of supply chain logistics IT staff - VISIBILITY!!!!! However bicycles are a perfect example of semi visible. Picture a pallet of these, all with little RFID tags here and there. Then the RFID reader squirts out a radio signal which bounces merrily around (Mathematica, do a graph of this one!). It might miss some bicycles and have trouble reading others. So POOF, there goes the validity of supply chain visibility.

And lets not even talk, much anyhow, about a pallet full of cans of soup. RFID visibility is not good amongst cans. If its supposed to always be on a visible side, how do you target the one in the middle? What about mis-stacking with RFIDS hidden? Besides cans provide an example of economics. I understand that Wal Mart pays something on the order of six cents per soup can. If RFID is ten cents. Do you want to "pay" more than a can of soup, 1/24 of your cost for visibility. Perhaps not when profits are measured to much smaller decimal points.

Good luck,
J

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (4, Informative)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859999)

That's why the industry wants a multiple-nines read rate on tags. Missing a tag is a big deal. On some items (like a pallet of bikes) getting 100% almost every time is easy (a bike in a box is mostly air). On other items (like cans of soup) it's extremely hard. Wal*Mart is unlikely to demand that individual soup cans get tagged, but they might want cases tagged, but even then it's hard because it's soup -- mostly metal and water, two things that don't play well with RFID tags.

One thing to remember is that these companies aren't run by complete idiots. If they pay 6c per can of soup they won't demand that every can be tagged. They also won't trust that the number of RFID tags they've scanned is the number of items shipped. Instead they'll have a shipping manifest that says "300 widgets". If the RFID scanner says it found 300 individual RFID tags, then they can be pretty confident that they read all the tags and that their order is complete. If instead it says 293 they'll know they either have to try to scan it a few more times, or if that doesn't work they'll have to disassemble the pallet and figure out if there really are only 293 widgets or if there are 7 that aren't getting read. If the system works well enough that most of the time it says 300 widgets when there really are 300 widgets it could be useful, but 300 widgets == 300 tags == $30-$60, which is a lot, depending on what's actually on the pallet.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860735)

Re the possible bicycle %100 read rate. Think of radio reflections. A triggering or reading signal goes out. Then all that metal in the bicycles might reflect and scatter responding RFID signals. We with human eyes can indeed see the individual bicycles by counting tires or handle bars or something. RFID readers have limited visibility; is that faint reflected signal an original signal or another read's reflected one?

Then am I ever %100 right on everything? Never! So I invite any actual RFID engineer readers to comment.

J

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20866765)

Hi, actual (former) RFID engineer here. In many cases reflection is good, it makes it more likely that a tag will be seen by the reader. Instead of having to rely on the antenna being in a direct line of sight with the tag, you can get a reflection, making the tag visible, so a combination of helpful reflections and lots of open space makes reading tags on boxes of bikes really easy, as long as they're not doing something really dumb and actually putting the tags on the metal parts of the bikes. As for whether or not a reflected signal is a bounce of the read signal or a returned signal from a tag, well the protocol takes care of that, that and the fact you don't receive while transmitting.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

bsytko (851179) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862709)

And lets not even talk, much anyhow, about a pallet full of cans of soup. RFID visibility is not good amongst cans. If its supposed to always be on a visible side, how do you target the one in the middle? What about mis-stacking with RFIDS hidden? Besides cans provide an example of economics. I understand that Wal Mart pays something on the order of six cents per soup can. If RFID is ten cents. Do you want to "pay" more than a can of soup, 1/24 of your cost for visibility. Perhaps not when profits are measured to much smaller decimal points.
Right now as I understand it, Walmart is only putting the chips on whole pallets and not individual products. Tagging individual products would obviously be harder as it would require the manufacturers to do this. Also one of the downsides of the current chips is they fail around things like liquids and steel. Their are still areas where they are not as effective as they need to be in order for the investment to be worthwhile.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

admiralx8 (1167869) | more than 6 years ago | (#20865701)

On the same principle, I work for a company that installs conveyor systems for major distribution centers. The biggest issue we see with RFID is too much visibility. When running a sortation system at 550 feet per minute and boxes 12 inches apart we could read 3 boxes at once and it becomes quite difficult to really differentiate the order of the boxes. The simple solution is multiple scanners but then we have issues with a no read on one scanner but a read on the next scanner. Simply put without an extremely refined field and improved response times RFID tags are not a viable identification system for high speed sortation systems.

Re:Intimate Walmart/RFID info (1)

rdavidson3 (844790) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859597)

Maybe he is right from the standpoint of a vendor, but I work in IT for a large sporting goods store in Canada, and I see lots of benefits when supplying stores.

For example, we don't need to open a box to see what is inside or scan the LPN (license plate) to get the unaudited contents thus giving lots a potential savings in labour and identify shortages. This will help with cross-docking also, where if we know that a box contains X, and X is needed in store A, then we push that box to the other side of the warehouse (shipping), and nothing gets stored. Works fantastic when you have a conveyor system like PUT (an example of one system http://www.ipti.net/puttolight.php [ipti.net] ) that does all of this for you without human intervention.

I can probably give a dozen more reasons, but these are probably the most important at this point in time.

Watch out for falling FAIL. (1)

Associate (317603) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859071)

Bonk

So they slipped a little (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859077)

I'm sure they gave plenty of slack in the schedules they arm-twisted thier vendors into.

RFID and Loss Prevention (3, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859171)

The real reason Wal-Mart hasn't gained anything from RFID quite yet is that the technology isn't being used the way it should be used and that is for convenience and loss prevention.

Convenient stores could make it really easy to find products with a proper RFID search system with kiosks in the store. That would work out in a way that could make it really easy for customers to find stuff. However the problem comes down in that you end up becoming too efficient... when you have a sale and you are retail giant you want the sale to bring in customers to buy the higher GM products... not the sale items! That loses you money when customers can actually FIND the stuff that is CHEAP. Far better to keep it the way it is there... so that doesn't work out and store giants like Wal-Mart are backpeddling.

The loss prevention use of RFID is great but theives can bypass any form of security and disgruntled employees don't usually care if someone is stealing 100% of the time... 70% of the time the employee will let even a theif leave the store when the excuse the theif gives COULD make sense... so it's lose/lose there... even with sophisticated loss prevention measures that would use RFID to track products leaving the store. Customers can come up with a valid-seeming excuse to get past so called last-chance methods for loss prevention like receipt checker employees. "Oh I bought this last week and I had a question about it..."

The best way to have loss prevention it seems is to move to a web or an ORDER ONLY system like you see at stores where employees bring out the products to the customer -- but even those types of stores suffer from theft. Customer can't get to products, customer can't steal em!!

RFID while it sounds good, and while it has great potential is stuck being a lose/lose... from the profit standpoint. Customers would profit from it, but they also stand to lose out... so w/e ... next technology!

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859283)

However the problem comes down in that you end up becoming too efficient... when you have a sale and you are retail giant you want the sale to bring in customers to buy the higher GM products... not the sale items! That loses you money when customers can actually FIND the stuff that is CHEAP

Exactly, it's just like how gas stations won't let you pay at the pump, they make you go inside so they can get a chance to sell you something.

Wait, I'm going to re-think that one...

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20861423)

If you have CC you can pay at the pump at most stores some even take cash.

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (2, Informative)

afabbro (33948) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862673)

And of course, in two states in the union (New Jersey and Oregon), you are forbidden from even touching the pump...the fact that you can't pump your own gas is quite a disincentive to getting out of the car.

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859611)

Electronic tagging is already well integrated into the stores and they have a sustainable way to handle it.

In supermarkets here an RF tag added on expensive (spirits, large coffee, razors) items.
I doubt its a full tag and it usually gets removed (for reuse), or destroyed at checkout, but if you walk out of the store without it being deactivated it will beep at you.

This prevents the losses and doesn't cost as much as a full RFID tag.
The store is happy that they don't lose as much to shoplifters and the management is happy because its cheap and effective.

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860199)

UHF RFID (the type being talked about in the article) isn't used for loss prevention and isn't at all appropriate for it. At UHF frequencies radio waves can't make it through even a tiny bit of skin, so if you hold an RFID tag in your hadn the reader can't see it. LF or HF RFID (i.e. key fobs) work for loss prevention because they can actually travel through your body. You can hold a key fob in your hand and wave it by the sensor and it will read the thing just fine, but that's not the technology they're using for inventory management for other reasons.

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860513)

Convenient stores could make it really easy to find products with a proper RFID search system with kiosks in the store.

The problem is that there is no incentive for them to make it convenient so long as they are not perceived by the public to be making it actively inconvenient. In fact there is a disincentive. This is why supermarkets move their shelves around and change the locations of items on a regular rotation, precisely to prevent the efficient shopper from memorizing the layout and minimizing his time spent in the store. The retailer, whether that is Walmart or the supermarket, knows that the longer you spend looking for things in the store that you cannot find the more likely it is that you will fill your basket with other impulsive purchases along the way. Why should they help you be efficient when that would limit their opportunities to pitch more impulse buys while you search for the item that you actually came into the store to buy?

Re:RFID and Loss Prevention (1)

brendanoconnor (584099) | more than 6 years ago | (#20864829)

The loss prevention use of RFID is great but theives can bypass any form of security and disgruntled employees don't usually care if someone is stealing 100% of the time... 70% of the time the employee will let even a theif leave the store when the excuse the theif gives COULD make sense... so it's lose/lose there... even with sophisticated loss prevention measures that would use RFID to track products leaving the store. Customers can come up with a valid-seeming excuse to get past so called last-chance methods for loss prevention like receipt checker employees. "Oh I bought this last week and I had a question about it..."

I work for a grocery store and stopping people from steal is not nearly as easy as it seems. First, we have to see you actually steal the product. Next, if we do see you take an item and try and leave, we have to be sure to be at the door before you get there so we can stop you and say, blah blah blah, give me that back. This is where it gets interesting, if you refuse and push your way out the door and are now outside the store, I could go after you, but at this point the thief has shown a tendency towards violence and may actually assault you over whatever item they are taking. Is it really worth getting hurt over a $40 bottle of liquor?

Also, say you get out of the store and I go after you, tackle you and get back the product, in California, this thief could probably sue and win against the company. It really isn't worth the cost of the item being stolen.

Finally, to your example about the customer that said "Oh I bought this last week and I had a question about it...", what if they are actually telling the truth? By alienating this customer, even if they are lying (which you don't know anyway) you very well may be costing yourself a customer. Keeping a customer is a lot harder to do then losing a customer.

As far as RFID goes, I'd personally love it if we had a way to track every single item that enters and leaves the store. By knowing exactly what is leaving (whether paid for or not) we would then be able to implement better ordering systems that would likely do a better job keeping out of stocks at a minimum which would make us more money and please our customers (which makes us more money).

tight ships have less to gain (3, Insightful)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859197)

The promise was that waste and inefficiency in the inventory and shipping areas can be eliminated (or greatly reduced) by better tracking.

But we're talking wal-mart.

They already were running a really tight ship, keeping every possible cost down, tracking everything with keyboarding and bar codes already, plus any wasted time tracking pallets was mostly blue-vest people at $8 an hour.

At some point, the waste and inefficiency just isn't there anymore and spending billions of dollars to save millions is pure management stupidity.

there's nothing wrong with the ship, it's the captain that's messed up.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

ambrosen (176977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859419)

Not necessarily the tightest ship, though. Tesco [economist.com] has more able distribution systems, especially for smaller shop sizes.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860041)

i just looked into this and it looks like tesco has scaled back their rfid plans a lot. for now they're just tagging their internal shipping cages and not the goods themselves. this prevents the occasional mix-up without interfering with the whole supply chain.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859451)

From the floor of a warehouse, I agree that it doesn't look like it would help.

When the PHB at Walmart promise "on the shelf on 10/1/07" and you don't see any sales for a week, you can find out _where_ your stuff is. Which is quite difficult in the current system. Then what happens is there's a regular review of your category within the retailer and you will have the best reason of all as to why your product didn't sell better. (It's never good enough) It never got on the shelf!

RFID has many hurdles to cross including the devaluation of the dollar, and their talk was way, way bigger than the possible outcome. But it's a viable solution for some supply chain issues.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

hobbesmaster (592205) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860009)

What does determining where your stuff is have to do with RFIDs? The type that you're likely to see in warehouses on every single product (what you're describing) are passive and can be read at about 1-2 feet realistically. This is similar to using a barcode reader. I would assume that in a good warehouse, you'd have something like your typical shipping labels on all the pallets/packages/whatever and can read off its data as its being sorted. That is basically all you'll get out of RFID as well. Putting an RFID on a box is nothing at all like putting a GPS transmitter that will always tell you where it is - its like putting a barcode on a box that can be read from a little further away. I would imagine that this helps a lot with processing stuff in a warehouse as you wouldn't have to manipulate the packages so much. (ie, look for the barcode)

Now, having an RFID on every distinct product would be nice. You could in theory walk your cart through a large reader and immediately ring up everything you had in your cart. As I recall, IBM had a commercial featuring a technology like this years ago.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

Solder Fumes (797270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860127)

Agreed. As a former employee of a company that provides Wal-Mart with its warehouse automation systems, the investment to switch to RFID is just too huge. Except for the really big items, the product comes off the inbound trailers and is broken down and very efficiently assigned internal barcode labels. This happens right at the mouth of the automated sorting system. From then on it barely touches a human hand until it's loaded on an outbound trailer. The sorting systems accurately read the barcodes and shunt the cartons to the desired conveyors. RFID is kind of a problem because it's difficult to read exactly one box and detect its position within a couple inches, the way barcode can. The automation begins to break down with the pick and put areas, where they're manually breaking open boxes and sorting by individual item, but RFID can't even help there unless you want to RFID every last toothbrush and soap dispenser.

The real useful application for RFID is for Wal-Mart to have an even easier way to detect if a vendor has shorted them a box or two on a truck. Once again, the vendors get to foot most of the bill for something that is designed to allow Wal-Mart to keep a tighter leash on them.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860349)

also i kind of wonder if most of the shrinkage cost isn't in losing a few toothbrushes and CD's per day, but management freaking out that OMG someone is stealing from us let's investigate this with some high-paid managers and hire a security firm and install cameras and do rfid and put locks on the dumpsters and install drug-sniffing urinals...come on at some point the countermeasures cost more than the original loss. it's just spite that keeps them going.

they need to realize that if you hire the cheapest possible labor some percentage of them are going steal something because you invenitably get some white trash and even if they're normal people they're going to resent the unpaid overtime, which by the way is WAL-MART stealing from THEIR EMPLOYEES in the first place.

what goes around comes around, sam.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860655)

but management freaking out that OMG someone is stealing from us let's investigate this with some high-paid managers and hire a security firm and install cameras and do rfid and put locks on the dumpsters and install drug-sniffing urinals

Which is precisely what they do when there is even a rumor that a unionizing drive is underway at one of their stores. They fly in a special union-busting team of high priced consultants with surveillance equipment, propaganda materials, and special managerial advisors from the corporate headquarters on a corporate jet which is on standby at all times for just such an emergency intervention. The cost of this elite union busting strike team is estimated to run into the thousands of dollars per hour and they stay on site until the store is closed or the union vote goes down to defeat.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20862785)

There are other poor folks who steal besides white people, you know.

I like the passive nature of your racism, though.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

Solder Fumes (797270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20864699)

Actually, he's not too far off...if you've ever been to a distribution center (I've been to 30 or 40), it at least appears that most of the workers are white, or hispanic if anywhere near the Southwest. Not terribly surprising when you look at the placement of the DCs...usually a couple miles outside a small town, which is on a major highway anywhere from 50 to 200 miles from the nearest major city.

Re:tight ships have less to gain (1)

Brickwall (985910) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862187)

Sorry, I don't buy this. Since I'm a geezer, I have a bit of perspective. Sir Terry Matthews, formerly head of Mitel and Newbridge, and now running March Networks (and a billionaire to boot), once said about PC's "Why would anyone invest $3,500 on a secretary's desktop?". Well, it took a while, but we eventually found out that those investments did make sense, which is why most executive assistants now support four to five managers, instead of one. Similarly, span of control for many firms has increased, as managers have found ways to use computers and networks to manage their time (and monitor their employees) more effectively. I remember when firms use to generate $50,000/employee; last year, IBM generated approximately $250,000/employee. Absolutely, some of that is due to inflation, but some of that is also due to better implementation of IT.

Wal-Mart's issue with RFID seems to be similar to Terry's mistake: not sure how to deploy the technology. Reading TFA, it seems they are refocusing to concentrate on the stores supplied directly from their RFID equipped distribution centres. This only makes sense to me; try it on a small and controlled scale and work the details and bugs out before you try to go national. I mean, I'm only an engineer, and not a full time /. reader, so this idea of trying something small, see if it works, and then see if it can scale is probably alien to many of you.

Finally, I can say that after many years of working at gas stations in my teens, and restaurants in my university years, I have never - well, hardly ever, like once or twice - seen a "case" of liquid cans (be it motor oil, soup, or brake fluid) where the case of 24 or 36 or 48 cans did *NOT* contain the requisite number of cans, and that was back in pre-electronic days. I mean, they can hardly contain more (they wouldn't fit!), and any shortages would be immediately obvious. I've watched so many episodes on Food Network and Discovery of how items are produced and packaged, that I think they are very accurate in filling their cases , and I doubt very much that Wal-Mart is worried about the possibility of missing a can of soup. (One would think that they would simply measure pallets coming in by weight, but again, giving the reliability of suppliers, that might even be too expensive; a simple check of every 10,000 cases might be sufficient.)

In short, like most pioneers, Wal-Mart is finding their way. I'm sure Henry Ford made mistakes; I'm sure Alfred Sloan did as well. But by the late 1930's, the US assembly lines were the most efficient in the world, and once they were drawn into WWII, the Axis defeat was inevitable. I'm equally sure Wal-Mart has made mistakes in RFID deployment, but let's remember this, shall we? Wal-Mart is a pure service provider, in that they don't manufacture their own goods (Great Value products are produced by other firms under contract to Wal-Mart). Surely, all of us will benefit if the cost of distribution goes down, and as other firms adopt Wal-Mart's technologies, just as GM, Chrysler, and AMC all adopted Ford's techniques to drive down the cost of cars, the final cost to consumers will drop.

I understand why so many /. people hate M$ products that offer lousy security, limited backups, and incompatibilty (and I say that despite running XP S.2 with Office 2002 for about five years now with no serious problems) but why in the heck do you hate Wal-Mart? They don't make the products - they just try to provide them to you at the lowest possible price. If you don't like their stuff, don't buy it - it's not like M$ where if you some of their stuff, you end up buying a lot of their stuff just to get full functionality. If I buy a book at Wal-Mart, I can lend it to my brother or sister to read; if I buy Monopoly, I can invite anyone I want to play it; if my 12 year old daughter buys clothes, she can share/trade them with her friends.

The biggest complaint I hear about Wal-Mart is they offer lousy health-care benefits. So why doesn't America get with the rest of the planet, and offer some mixture of private/public heatlh care (not my own Canada's purely public system, which I will not defend)? The USA's biggest economic problem, IMHO, is that they set up this system where business pays for benefits while you work for them, and then keeps paying after your retire, until you die.

That system might have been fine when 1) the US, after WWII, was the pre-eminent manufacturing, military, and political entity in the world, 2) people retired at 65, and died at 70, and 3) the typical physician's response in 1950 to a patient with lung cancer, heart failure, or a brain tumour was "Gee, that's tough; here's something for the pain.". Now, North America is no longer the greatest manufacturer in the world (some sectors excluded); people are retired at 60, and not dieing until 80; and when catastophic disease hits you in your later years, there are plenty of doctors willing to offer "life-saving" surgery that keeps you alive for a few years longer, often with hundreds of visits to the doctor along the way.

I realize I've strayed a way from the topic, so let's me summarize: Wal-Mart didn't get RFID tech right the first time, so now they are trying a different approach; they are not using the tech to force specific standards down your throat; if they succeed, their methods will doubtless filter throughout the entire supply chain (and not only theirs) to reduce distribution costs for all firms (and thus costs to all customers). Finally, Wal-Mart's US issues with health care costs are more a function of US health care laws and their corporate philosophy of keeping costs low than they are of being inherently evil. Please note that Wal-Mart has always paid their share of the Employer Health Tax in Canada without complaint.

Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (2, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859239)

Wal-Mart CIO Ford also insists the company is commited to the technology. "The train has left the station," he says. "Imagine in the future being in a checkout line at Wal-Mart and you're out in 30 seconds. Now that's utopia--and we'll get there."

I'm not quite sure how RFID is supposed to make the checkout person bag my items any faster. Or is that not the slowest part of the whole process? It's not like we're losing a whole lot of time waiting for barcodes to be scanned, unless you're buying pears and they have to key it in manually.

On an unrelated rant, I'm pretty sure the idea with utopia is that you can't get there. And I can think of a lot better utopia than a Wal-Mart checkout line.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (1)

valkabo (840034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859265)

Well, with RFID you could just walk the cart through a small scanner, and it would just pull each individual RFID item off of it.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (3, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859285)

I'm not quite sure how RFID is supposed to make the checkout person bag my items any faster. Or is that not the slowest part of the whole process? It's not like we're losing a whole lot of time waiting for barcodes to be scanned, unless you're buying pears and they have to key it in manually.

The longest part about checking out for me is waiting for some luddite to stop futzing with writing a check and use a check card or cash instead. The second longest part is another luddite standing in the "self-check out" that doesn't understand what to do, especially when they have bulk items or fruits and vegetables that need to be weighed.

RFID isn't going to solve either of those problems.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860849)

Agreed.

And then you have what happened today. Went through the self-checkout and almost everything that I had simply refused to scan without swiping it past the reader 30 million times.

I think their checkout needed to be worked on.

Also on my list are boxes that have 5 bar codes with no indication of which one needs to be scanned (especially prevalent when dealing with stuff from the electronics dept.). To top it off, the one that needs to be scanned is usually right next to another one, which, of course, is the one the scanner wants to read.

Oh, and the age verification on a spindle of cds (I wish I was kidding).

While there are a lot of incompetent people who try to use the self checkouts, there are a large number of problems with their systems themselves.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (2, Insightful)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#20861605)

The longest part about checking out for me is waiting for some luddite to stop futzing with writing a check and use a check card or cash instead.
Seriously? I never have this problem - I figure everyone who uses checks has been writing checks to pay for their groceries for decades, and has got the process pretty nailed down - they start filling it out while the checker is scanning and bagging their items, so when they get the total, writing in the number and tearing it off takes just about as long as entering a PIN and waiting for approval.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859327)

Because you could just push your cart, and in about 1 second it would give you your total. If you have a card on file, you could just walk out the door and get your receipt.

So either you don't bag at all(bring in your own) or bagging will be quicker because it can be done without the scanning piece of the process.

It's Wal-marts utopia, not yours. However you are right about never achieving utopia, except for fleeting moments. contrary to what that spokesman said, the will never reach there utopia because there will be the elderly, the disabled, the newbs, the noobs, and returns. The management at Wal-mart knows this.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859763)

Sure, you could do that with RFID. But I don't think people (Americans, at least) are going to take very kindly to not having their items bagged. What are you supposed to do when you get to your car?

Also, tallying up the items one by one may be slow, but it also gives the customer a chance to ensure that they are being rung up correctly, and to make sure that discounts are being applied, etc. I wouldn't trust any store, least of all Wal-Mart, to ring up things without making mistakes.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (3, Insightful)

Alaska Jack (679307) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859985)

1. Bags are in the cart already. You take something down off the shelf, and put it right in the bag.

2. That's why you get a receipt on your way out.

    - Alaska Jack

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (2, Interesting)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859879)

Because you could just push your cart, and in about 1 second it would give you your total. If you have a card on file, you could just walk out the door and get your receipt.
That won't happen, because it invites shoplifting: just remove or disable the RFID tag on an expensive item and you get it free.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (1)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859427)

I'm not quite sure how RFID is supposed to make the checkout person bag my items any faster. Or is that not the slowest part of the whole process? It's not like we're losing a whole lot of time waiting for barcodes to be scanned, unless you're buying pears and they have to key it in manually.

Why couldn't the store simply have a pack of bags attached to the side of the cart, and you bag your own groceries as you're putting them in the cart?

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859945)

I find that usually the slowest part of waiting in line at the local Super Wal-Mart is, well, waiting in line. They must have 30 lanes available for purchases, but rarely are a significant fraction of them open. I guess they have figured out the maximum wait-time people will tolerate, and have adjusted their staffing to meet this level. I think it would be excellent if all the lanes were open, but I could see that they could be in a situation where many cashiers are just waiting around to service customers.

Of course, the 1 second RFID package scan could alleviate this, but it does seem like a very technology-heavy solution to just hiring a few more people.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860165)

You could just have bags on the cart, and bag your items as you shop.

Re:Out in 30 seconds? I don't think so... YES! (1)

korbin_dallas (783372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20866225)

The KEY to getting out of Wal-Mart checkout lines in 30 seconds.....

Find out the DAY the REGIONAL MANAGER will be there !!!

I am serious, my wife experienced this as she stood there and talked to the regional manager afterwards.
Every checkout line was manned.

Me, I go to Publix, it might cost more, but the employees are very friendly and cheerful and I never have to wait in line more than a minute.

Stay the Course (0, Redundant)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859309)

For now, however, Wal-Mart says it will stay the course
In my opinion, with the weight the phrase has accumulated in the last few years, "stay the course [google.com] " should become a four letter word.

Wait wait wait a second here... (4, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859311)

I've read here on \. that the RFIDs were going to be used by the government to track my sneakers from space and that the second I walked into the Gap I was going to get bombarded with ads based off the stuff I was wearing.

After reading that, I became extremely paranoid and started wrapping myself in tinfoil every day. But then I realized the RFID could be in the tinfoil itself. So I rewrapped that tinfoil in other tinfoil. They told me I could kill it with microwaves, so I took the tinfoil I was wrapping the other tinfoil in and put that in the microwave. That didn't really work out to well. Now I've been walking around looking like some 1950's space alien comfortable that my previous purchases of BVDs would be safely hidden beneath my shorts and you're telling me that these guys can't even read an RFID out in the open? ...

You guys are just big jerks you know that?

Re:Wait wait wait a second here... (1)

g0at (135364) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859743)

I've read here on \. that the RFIDs were going to be used...

Backslashdot?

b

Re:Wait wait wait a second here... (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859819)

I'm also paranoid about people tracking my browsing history so I encrypt the names of the sites I go to.

Re:Wait wait wait a second here... (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860093)

I'm actually pretty amazed. Stories about RFID on slashdot have gone from "OMG! They're going to read my RFIDs from the street and know what kind of pr0n I bought!!!11!1" a few years ago to discussions about the physics of RFID, the IT infrastructure challenges, and other informed, rational discussions. What happened to the uninformed trolls?

RFID a good thing... (1)

johnjones (14274) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859329)

It really is

it's great

it can help locate and tell me how old everything in the store is this helps for perishables - without having to get people to act like basic humaniods and go and count things... to find out how much is spoiled and been stolen

it can help move things from one store to another

BUT it needs to be easy to destroy (privacy reasons) so it will not help you prevent thieves !

regards

John Jones

Re:RFID a good thing... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859367)

Like all new technologies, we need to ensure that are rights remain intact.
Put that in law, and I would embrace rfid. There are a lot of cool things that can be done.

Re:RFID a good thing... (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860047)

The tags are really easy to destroy. What's hard is keeping them alive. If you want to kill one it's easy. Rip the antennas off the IC, microwave it, smash the chip with a hammer, even just bend it a few times and you'll probably deactivate it. Remember, they're being made as cheaply as possible, as little as 10c in massive volumes, how durable do you think they really are at that price?

Anybody who thinks UHF RFID will help prevent theft doesn't know anything about the technology.

Walmart is facing serious challenges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20859377)

In the beginning, Walmart bulldozed over the retail landscape. That was then. Now, other companies have learned to compete with Walmart. So, Walmart has some distractions in addition to the RFID technical challenges.

Re:Walmart is facing serious challenges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20860217)

I just went to Wal-Mart a couple days ago for the first time in many months. I was a little shocked how uninteresting the store had become. The prices were high, the merchandise was ramshackle and many boxes lacked price tags (as usual), but there was no "zip" in their presentation or displays. The checkout lines were noticeably short (this was at about 7:30 pm on a weeknight).

Seems like it might be time for a change at the top. I wouldn't be surprised if the family steps in and lets the Glass guy concentrate on running the Kansas City Royals into the ground.

Fun with RFID (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859391)

In college, friends of mine would occasionally get harassed by loss prevention when trying to exit our local Wal-Mart.... Mysteriously there would one or more RFID stickers stuck on their backs (or in their jacket pockets, etc...) -Oddly enough I could be found chuckling off to the side. Strange what you can find stuck to the outside of the more expensive items in a Wal-mart. -I generally bought the first couple of rounds/pitchers at the bar to regain favor, but it was all the more funny.

Re:Fun with RFID (5, Funny)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859967)

From the been there done that dept...

The undergrad library at $Canadian_University had magnetic strips in all the books, and exit turnstiles under the mag strip scanners. If the scanner detected a strip it locked the turnstile and set off an alarm.

I peel a strip out of a book and slip it into my buddy's backpack. I distract him a bit as it get close to class time and then say "Holy kerap, you're going to be late for your lab" Buddy takes off for the exit at a dead run.

BEEEP...CLICK...WHAM! The scanner triggers, the alarm goes off, and the turnstile locks, all at the same moment. Buddy hits it at full speed, folds in half at the hips and then flies through the air like something from an ESPN highlight clip.

I snuck the strip out of his bag at our next class, and he never did figure out what happened.

Don't blame Wal-Mart (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859509)

Sure, they are evil, but this is beyond their ability. Shoot, the distribution business can't even get the manufacturers to put barcodes on cases in a uniform way. There are untold millions that could be saved in the distribution business if the cases had barcodes on them that could be scanned in an effective manner. Forget it. The market is too chaotic and not even Wal-Mart can bring it to order.

Reuse them (1)

The -e**(i*pi) (1150927) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859793)

Why not make many containers that are reusable (by attaching a different label and mouth) and tag the reusable container with a RFID chip, and track the container against a database of ownership and contents by chip ID. Have an extra bin on the recycling truck to separate out those containers and bring back to suppliers and charge people after a month when the container has not been returned and scanned.

Re:Reuse them (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860259)

Because a wooden pallet with an RFID tag attached to the shrink wrap is much cheaper.

Re:Reuse them (1)

butlerdi (705651) | more than 6 years ago | (#20864951)

There have been several major trials of this. Mostly from the largest pallet company Chep http://www.logisticsit.com/absolutenm/templates/article-datacapture.aspx?articleid=2532&zoneid=6 [logisticsit.com] .

However RFID and wood do not always get along very well, especially when the wood gets wet. But it does pretty well. We have a project where we have attached tags to reuseable fruit bins and this has also worked well, with the exception of the wet wood scenario.

Article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (1)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 6 years ago | (#20859871)

There was a good article in yesterday's WSJ article about the era of Wal-Mart waning.

Basically, other competitors are now starting to be able to compete on price. But what is more important is the other retailers are providing higher quality goods and better service.
 
I believe that Wal-Mart's service is actually a big game in limiting reagents. The do not hire enough people to police up the shopping carts and do not hire enough checkers. The are able to maintain an uneasy equilibrium by putting just enough carts out to make sure that the lines are filled to where you are insured of a half hour wait to check out... It must be hard. This schedule is delicate but they are able to maintain it with surprising efficiency.
 
Also, their meat and produce are at a quality level that makes me crave the good old days of soylent green.
 
Anyhow, it is a nice article that I gave you the quick overview of, but does talk about their failed RFID initiative. Partly because they do not have the influence of their suppliers that they once had. They also talk about how CostCo has some of the best employee benefits in retail, people are more willing to give their custom to companies with better images.

print link (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860457)

Here! [baselinemag.com] The technology can still help, but it doesn't make up for stockers and floor employees who can identify problems before they occur. POS and tracking reports will never help make up for an employee who knows how important it is to keep these items in stock. Then again, when your employees are saying "I don't care; If Wal-Mart doesn't care for me, why should I care?" [businessweek.com] you might have bigger problems than keeping tabs on your stock turnover.

Weren't failure rates the biggest problem? (2, Interesting)

schweini (607711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20860573)

IIRC, RFID nowadays has failure rates between 10% and 40% - and even though it would be incredibly revolutionary if i could get an exact tally of my inventory by just walking through the aisles with an RFID reader once, a failure rate of even 5% would be way to high - people's jobs (HOW much was stolen in the store you manage?!?), long term supply planning and stuff like that are on the line with this, so people are doing anything to reduce the error rate to the bare minimum, and as long as nothing fundamentally changed since the last time i looked into RFID, it's still nowhere close to being viable. Just imagine that nice "instant checkout by driving you cart through some antennas" scenario - but with a 10% failure rate.

Re:Weren't failure rates the biggest problem? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862125)

long term supply planning

      I have news for you. Wal Mart doesn't do "long term" supply planning. That's what the software and the distribution network is about. Wal Mart orders another widget from the manufacturer the minute your widget gets scanned at the cash register. Management knows instantly what's selling and what's not, at any given time. Inventory is kept to the bare minimum.

      Although I agree with your general point, even a 5% failure rate is way too high.

it's not Walmart implementing RFID anyways (1)

compasseng (947192) | more than 6 years ago | (#20862323)

Walmart didn't implement RFID themselves anyways. They force their suppliers to. We did a job for a company that was forced (by Walmart) to implement RFID tagging or they would lose their right to sell their products at Walmart. It cost that company (roughly) $250,000 to make the change, then an additional $5,000/mo for the RFID labels. Then their "no read" rate went through the roof to about %8 failure.

So I'm not surprised that it's not helping Walmart save money. Frankly I don't see how it could. Actually, it could only make it worse since they're not as reliable as barcode scanners.

BTW - this is why you'll NEVER see that magic RFID purchasing method in a retail store. Companies would be risking giving ~5% to 8% of their merchandise away for free because the RFID reader didn't pick it up.

Barcodes are going to be around for a long time.

Brain in need of coffee (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 6 years ago | (#20863773)

I read it as "Wal-Mart's Farting RFID Initiative" ...

I like it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20865001)

..."rfid (tagging beta)"

Okay, so I'm a sad case. :-)
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