20 June 2002 | Robin Parker
Leading retailers and a computer manufacturer have joined government-backed trials of electronic product tags in a bid to improve the efficiency and security of their supply chains.
Woolworths, Asda and Dell Computer are the last of eight companies to sign up to a Home Office initiative to track goods and prevent stock loss, unavailability and theft. They join pilots announced last year at companies including Argos, Allied Domecq and Safeway.
Under the Chipping of Goods Initiative, products are tracked using electronic tags.
They are said to be more effective than bar codes, by providing automatic reading and updating of data to designated users along the supply chain.
The tags, which contain a semiconductor chip and an aerial to transmit data by radio waves, are applied to product packaging by manufacturers.
At £1 each, the tags are unlikely to replace bar codes entirely, but are intended for expensive or high-risk goods. Project partners say that widespread use could cut their cost by half.
Asda is working with e-business standards association e.centre, music giant EMI and distributor Handleman to track compact discs. E.centre is in talks with EMI about putting tags on the discs as well.
The system will help to prevent stores over-ordering by speeding up the procurement process, said Will Roebuck, project manager at e.centre.
The firms will evaluate the pilots early next year, followed by a Home Office analysis in May.