Retail Solutions - Tesco's RFID strategy hindered by lack of standard technology

Slow technology development has forced Tesco to delay roll-out of its radio barcode RFID project, according to UK IT director Colin Cobain.

'It's unreasonable to expect manufacturers to deploy case-level barcodes until standardised technologies are in place,' he told delegates at a conference to launch the EPCglobal RFID standard at London's Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.

Tesco had planned to get its suppliers to start building RFID into their pallets at the end of this year. However, 'mass roll-out won't start until the first quarter of 2005', Cobain told the conference.

Tesco's internal project, which uses RFID tags to secure its supply chain, will start in the third quarter of this year, he said.

RFID enables palleted items to be counted automatically at every step of the supply chain without being unpacked. This helps to pinpoint exactly where goods are in the chain, providing a deterrent to thieves and a tool to aid theft detection.

Tesco has no plans to use item-level tagging throughout the store. 'There is no particular business benefit, so we won't be doing it at item level,' Cobain said.

However, the retailer may use RFID with specific items. Tesco has already carried out trials using RFID tagging on DVDs, in conjunction with Entertainment UK, and razors, in collaboration with Gillette.

Feedback from staff had been enthusiastic, Cobain said. 'Their response was 'can we put these on everything?' We can't do that, but it was great to have such positive feedback.'

- RFID: page 20.