HOW HP & WAL-MART PUMP UP THE VOLUME
HOW HP & WAL-MART PUMP UP THE VOLUME
2005-02-27 at 9:39:00 am #10562
Pump Up The Volume
“Noisy Lab” boosts the number of
RFID-tagged products headed for Wal-Mart
In April 2004, IT giant Hewlett-Packard(HP)was one of just
eight consumer goods giants that began shipping Electronic Product Code
(EPC)-products to Wal-Mart’s Dallas/Fort Worth distribution center.The trial
was part of Wal-Mart’s efforts to enhance its ability to receive EPC-tagged
pallets and cases of products ahead of its January 2005 deadline, when the
retailer’s top 100 suppliers, plus 37 volunteers, were expected to start
delivering EPC-tagged shipments.
An Early Adopter
HP’s investigation into RFID as an
emerging technology began nearly two years earlier, realizing that the
deployment of RFID could drive significant gains in productivity and save money
as products could be shipped and received more quickly.In 2003,an initial
proof-of-concept pilot at HP’s Memphis manufacturing plant determined that a
pallet could be prepared for shipment in only 11 seconds, as opposed to previous
testing that measured 90 seconds. “That was a specific process with a specific
product,” said Ian Robertson, director of HP’s RFID program, in May 2004. “We
know that in electronics manufacturing, there is a high degree of variability,
and every item could mean a shift in configuration. But it made us think RFID
was worth going after.”
From here, HP set its sights on Wal-Mart’s pilot project. HP
prepared three of its 65 consumer products — one model of HP’s Scanjet scanners
and two of its Photosmart photo printers — to be EPC-tagged and then shipped to
Wal-Mart from its Memphis, Tennessee, manufacturing and distribution operations.
At the same time, another HP manufacturing plant in Chester, Virginia, was
tagging cases of HP inkjet printer cartridges even though a shipment date had
yet to be determined as the ink’s cartridge’s liquid and metal composition
presented significant challenges in obtaining an accurate tag read.
Pumping up Product Volume
Today, less than a month after
Wal-Mart’s January 2005 deadline, HP has leveraged knowledge and experience
gleaned from its Memphis and Chester projects to increase the number RFID-tagged
products shipped to Wal-Mart and additional retailers at the pallet, case and
packaging level from just three consumer technology products to more than 40.
The next generation of HP products to be tagged with EPC technology include HP
All-in-One printers, HP iPAQ Pocket PCs, HP Compaq Presario desktop PCs, HP
notebook computers, HP LaserJet and Deskjet printers, and additional Photosmart
A major and indispensable player in HP’s broader RFID
acceleration initiative is the company’s new RFID Noisy Lab in Omaha, Nebraska —
a facility developed to simulate a real-world manufacturing and distribution
center where HP, its customers and its partners can pilot and evaluate RFID
technology and solutions. Announced at the National Retail Federation 94th
Annual Convention and Expo, HP expects its facility to be one of the more
comprehensive RFID labs in the industry.
“Our new Noisy Lab facility offers an invaluable resource to
HP, its customer and partners as they develop innovative RFID solutions and
services to help simplify change and reduce costs,” says Robertson. “We are
committed to developing and implementing RFID technology in a cost-effective and
low-risk manner to meet our customer requirements and make supply chain
improvements in industries as diverse as retail, consumer packaged goods
manufacturing, automotive, pharmaceutical and high technology.”
Making Noise with RFID
So named because it simulates a
live or “noisy” manufacturing environment and distribution center, HP will use
the Lab’s controlled environment to test RFID equipment, solutions and
technology from new vendors; and to host customer tours, demonstrations and
proof-of-concepts. Several key elements have been implemented to ensure a
real-world manufacturing and distribution center, including:
4Racetrack conveyor capable of reaching variable speeds up to
600 feet per minute and equipped with cases of consumer products that have a
maximum weight of 50 pounds and case volume size of two cubic feet.
RFID printer write station that writes electronically to an RFID tag and
prints a readable number on the tag. The station has the capability to easily
change vendor printer equipment.
RFID write station with the capability to write to the tag after the tag is
applied to the case.
RFID read station located near a conveyor belt that reads the RFID tag. The
station will be movable so that tests can be conducted at varying distances.
RFID portal that can read pallet and case tags while a forklift moves through
Middleware server with three middleware vendor products that enable a
comparison of product features from RFID middleware vendors.
Pallet wrap station on a turntable with RFID read capability.
Additionally, Printronix contributes a SmartLine SL5304e MP RFID printer,
enabling encoding and printing of various RFID label sizes and antenna designs
that have emerged as popular standards through early adopter pilot programs.
Printronix also plans to use the lab to test RFID printing and software
configurations in a real-world environment. HP is collaborating with several
other companies to demonstrate RFID solutions, including: ADT Sensormatic, Alien
Technology, Applied Wireless Identifications Inc., OATSystems and Shipcom
Leading the Industry
While the RFID Noisy Lab was developed with one goal
in mind—to increase the number of RFID-tagged products bound for retailers
from three HP consumer technology products to more than 40 — industry experts
expect the facility will lead RFID initiatives for additional retail and
consumer goods firm. HP’s RFID lab initiatives “further underscores HP’s
commitment to providing the right solutions for supply chain participants within
the RFID marketplace,” says Richard Dean, program director for Mobile Enterprise
and RFID Services research, IDC Research.