By creating a new online supply chain system for its suppliers, Germany's Metro Group hopes to push them toward using radio frequency identification (RFID) in tracking products.
More and more retailers are pushing their suppliers to use RFID. Last year Wal-Mart last year announced it would require its top suppliers to implement RFID.
Metro is already in the forefront of European efforts to create a better supply chain system. Metro was named as the European test lab by EPCglobal for the further development of RFID technology inconstructing a global supply chain information network that combines RFID technology, existing communications network infrastructure and EPC, a number for uniquely identifying an item.
A unified data system would allow changes in information about product sizes, weight, name, price, classification, transport requirements and volumes to be immediately transmitted along the supplychain. For example it would allow shippers to immediately know if the amount of product stacked on a pallet had changed, or give a retailer time to adjust display space.
Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hormel Foods, Kraft, Unilever, Wegmans Food Markets and Sara Lee are among the food processors helping to develop the supply chain standard by using the EPCglobal'sGlobal Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).
As part of that push Metro Link has launched what it bills as a "future store" online portal, called "Metro Link".
Suppliers will be able to access the Metro's data warehouse online, allowing them to manage their products and even the design private brands in a digital workflow, according to LebensmittelZeitung.
"We are moving from information to interaction and will merge what are currently heterogeneous systems into one single portal," a manager of the new extranet system told the food retailingpublication. "By putting the close relationship with our partners on a standardized technological basis we are able to realise significant efficiency potentials."
The group plans to bundle existing information, co-operation and administration tools for suppliers on the portal. New services are to be added allowing suppliers to easily access the data theyneed to get their products on the shelves.
The first phase of the extranet will be launched in Spring of 2006, giving suppliers up-to-date sales and on-stock data.
The goods data can be accessed by the suppliers with a direct access to the already existing Metro data warehouse. E-mail alarms and advertising analyses will be made available to suppliers,according to the publication.
The Metro group's purchasing auctions and requests for proposals on sourcing will be also be available via Metro Link in the future.
Another possible area is the data of goods receipts and goods issue with RFID tags including automated alarm notifications, Metro's managers told the newspaper.
Metro Group had sales of €56.4bn last year. The group has supermarkets in 30 countries and a workforce of about 250,000.
RFID refers to technology that uses devices attached to objects that transmit radio data to a receiver. The devices can be the size of a small book like those attached to ocean containers or can besmaller, inserted into a label on a package.
RFID are being seen as a step up on bar codes by giving those in the supply chain the ability to track individual products and obtain more data.
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