Magazine Article | February 1, 2006

Russell Corp. Meets Wal-Mart RFID Mandate Deadline

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, February 2006

Russell Corp. is an international athletic and sporting goods company specializing in athletic uniforms, apparel, and equipment. Russell is one of the top 100 suppliers to Wal-Mart and thus was subject to the retailer's January 2005 deadline for RFID (radio frequency identification) compliance ? it needed to place RFID tags on cases and pallets destined for Wal-Mart stores and SAM'S CLUB locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The retailer mandated that its suppliers deliver 100% readability of pallet tags through dock doors and 100% readability of case tags on distribution center conveyor belts by the January deadline.

Russell ships outbound cases of apparel to Wal-Mart through its distribution centers in Montgomery, AL, and Columbus, GA. Although the company knew it must comply with Wal-Mart's mandate, compliance presented a logistical challenge. All of the distribution centers (DCs) Russell ships to are networked into one central legacy WMS (warehouse management system) platform. Russell was challenged by this; it had to integrate RFID into an expansive system without interrupting normal operations. It also did not want to create a separate, redundant system for RFID-separate shipments. Additionally, Russell needed an RFID solution with an open system architecture and multiprotocol capabilities to accept Class 0+, 1, and future RFID standards.

The sportswear company enlisted RFID systems integrator The Danby Group to assist with the project and help develop a pilot test of an RFID solution. Danby first selected an RFID middleware program that could reside on Russell's existing WMS platform and would allow normal WMS operation plus the ability to encode and write to RFID tags. The middleware also needed to track and store RFID data for Russell to later review, including SKU (stock keeping unit), GTIN (global trade identification number) bar code, product description, brand and product family, EPC data, and human readable information. Danby decided to go with rfid> Genesis, a middleware application from RFID solutions provider Franwell Corp.

Currently, Russell's WMS receives orders from Wal-Mart via the retailer's online data-sharing portal Retail Link and/or through EDI (electronic data interchange). Then, product is picked, packed, and bar coded. Before a shipment is sent, the bar code must be manually reviewed to ensure quality. To meet the Wal-Mart mandate, orders requiring RFID tags are directed to the Genesis program so EPC numbers can be automatically assigned. The Genesis program then communicates with Printronix SmartLine SL5204e RFID printers, and RFID labels are encoded, printed, and applied. With this RFID solution, Russell was able to meet the Wal-Mart compliance deadline on time.