MGI Metro works closely with tagging partners

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am

Gerd Wolfram, managing director of MGI Metro Group Information Technology

How has the use of RFID helped in managing your import supply chain? RFID deployed throughout supply chains improves the visibility of the goods flow. Numerous benefits in efficient processes, better goods availability and improved planning capacities can be reaped by implementing the technology. We experienced this with our RFID roll-out at 180 locations in Germany. With our initiative, Advanced Logistics Asia (ALA), we pioneer the use of RFID to demonstrate its potential for our import supply chain - and our experiences are positive.

How widely has the system been implemented? Within the ALA various pilot projects and test scenarios are being pursued, including 'Tag it Easy'. This project is customised for our Asian suppliers and their needs in IT capabilities. In Tag it Easy we co-operate with a third-party label provider to enable our Chinese suppliers to deploy passive RFID technology in their existing supply chain processes. The labels can easily be attached to export packages connecting shipments directly with the advanced shipping notice that is sent via Metro Link - a supplier portal developed by Metro - to the global supplier portal of the Metro Group. The project is largely internet-based, so it is possible to expand it regardless of the location.

What were the main steps for implementation and training? Possibly the most important step is to inform suppliers about the benefits RFID can bring to supply chain processes. But we also had to find partners that could provide the international expertise necessary to understand and adapt to the regional distinctions. Our long-standing strategic partner Checkpoint Systems - a leading manufacturer and marketer of identification, tracking, security and merchandising solutions for the retail industry and its supply chain - could offer this.

What difficulties did you have to overcome? Developing solutions for a global supply chain always requires the knowledge of local processes. To combine local expertise and globally usable technology such as RFID was the key challenge in our ALA initiative. One feature of the Asian business environment that led to the development of the Tag it Easy project was the widespread interest in rapidly deploying hi-tech solutions, while starting from a low technology base.

How do GS1 Hong Kong and MGI METRO Group collaborate in the ALA project? Last year, EPCglobal Hong Kong - formed under the auspices of GS1 Hong Kong in 2004 to drive the adoption of Electronic Product Code as the global standard - started to participate in the ALA project, assisting the MGI Metro Group in the implementation of EPC/RFID for Fat Kee Stevedores, one of the group's logistics providers based in Hong Kong. EPCglobal Hong Kong offered an EPC industry solution under which Fat Kee Stevedores was provided with a turnkey EPC/RFID system including EPC/RFID technology knowledge transfer, business process review, equipment, training, advisory services and consultancy. The aim was to demonstrate how the Hong Kong EPCnetwork enabled seamless data exchange to create information visibility on an international scale - from the Pearl River Delta and all the way through to Germany.

How did you get the support of various supply chain partners? We have been working with these participants closely for many years. This extraordinary relationship and experience is the basis to enhance our logistical processes together. After the initial shipments went through, we received positive feedback from our partners. The system works and more companies are interested in taking part.

What improvements or refinements are still needed? The key is informing our business partners about the project and to encourage them to participate. The successful experience of the first participants makes this easier. For suppliers, Tag it Easy offers a superior proof of delivery and thus better quality of data for their own processes. In addition, suppliers are able to position themselves as reliable business partners of Metro Group.

What future plans do you have for the EPC/RFID system? We regard RFID as a key technology for the future of retailing. RFID-enabled supply chains offer us numerous benefits in transparency and efficiency gains throughout all our processes. The Tag it Easy project will be expanded to include Vietnam.