New Wal-Mart CIO steams ahead with RFID

Exec promises to pursue the expanded use of radio frequency identification tags as fervently as his predecessor.

Wal-Mart Stores' new chief information officer is singing the praises of radio frequency identification tags.

Rollin Ford, who is also an executive vice president at the retail giant, promised at a company-sponsored conference last week to pursue the expanded use of the tracking technology as fervently as his predecessor.

"There will be no slowing down. RFID will transform the way we do business."
--Rollin Ford, CIO, Wal-Mart Stores

"There will be no slowing down. RFID will transform the way we do business," he reiterated in a statement.

Wal-Mart has been pioneering the use of the controversial technology in the retail world since it mandated that 100 suppliers tag their products from the start of 2005.

Linda Dillman, the company's previous CIO, had overseen Wal-Mart's ambitious RFID plans but moved on earlier this month to become the retailer's executive vice president of risk management and benefits administration.

Under Dillman, Wal-Mart released some of the RFID project's findings, revealing that its use resulted in a 16 percent reduction in the number of times products went out of stock.

Ford will now be in charge of the next wave of RFID, known as Gen2.

"When Gen2 was released, we planned to make it our standard at the beginning of this year. We have done that, and I can confirm that we will be sunsetting Gen1 on June 30," he said.

Ford also said Wal-Mart's tech team and its vendors have overcome one of the major problems cited by would-be item-level taggers: the failure of RFID to work on vessels holding liquids or made of metal.

As well as moving the chain to Gen2 tags, Ford will also be overseeing the expansion of RFID from the start of 2007, when the number of suppliers required to tag their goods will rise to 600.

Jo Best of reported from London.

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