The introduction of Radio Frequency Identity (RFID) asset tagging is set to revolutionise the supply chains of retail organisations in the near future. That’s according to Andre Muzerie, Sun Microsystems Coastal manager.

He says this is evident in the move by US-retail giant Wal-Mart to compel its suppliers to comply with its RFID solution for better inventory management.

"The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart has issued its suppliers with a deadline of 1 January 2005 to ensure that they are compliant with its RFID system - if they don’t, their products may disappear from the shelves of the retail giant. Sun has established an RFID test centre to assist suppliers in certifying their RFID solutions to guarantee compliance with the shopping chain’s standard," he says.

Muzerie says the impact of Wal-Mart’s RFID mandate to its suppliers is enormous and will change the way manufacturers and suppliers track inventory. "RFID will have a massive impact on many companies in the fast-moving consumer goods industries. It will change the way goods move through the value chain - and, because it will introduce compelling new efficiencies, it cannot be ignored," he says.

Wal-Mart will use the Electronic Product Code (EPC) compliant RFID technology for identifying, tracking and tracing deliveries and inventory.

"Because the Wal-Mart Test Centre and the RFID Test Centres are built using the same technology, its suppliers can test their RFID solution first with Sun to ensure compliance with Wal-Mart’s RFID specifications," says Muzerie.

"Sun has been working with customers to determine the most cost effective way to help them with compliance to Wal-Mart requirements. We will take the lessons learned from this experience to assist SA companies to move to RFID systems, reducing the time and expense suppliers will have to undergo to support local RFID initiatives."

The Sun RFID test centre, located in Dallas, Texas, will be open to Wal-Mart’s suppliers by December 2003. The Sun RFID Test Center will be powered by the Solaris Operating System using Sun Java Enterprise Software and the Sun standards-based implementation of Savant, with additional value around self-healing and provisioning of EPC readers.