The company says that it will commence its first European trialling of the technology, which has already been implemented in the US market, on 24 February.
Building on its extensive and ongoing trial success with retailers Wal-Mart, Target and Albertons in the United States, Kimberly-Clark says that it will be launching its RFID application in Germany in conjunction with national retail giant, Metro.
The Metro trial will see Kimberly-Clark tagging at pallet level and will be instrumental in enabling Metro to anticipate what stock is arriving at its warehouse. The move aims to improve Metro's demand signals, which in turn will reduce out-of-stock items in its stores.
RFID technology uses tiny radio transponders, or tags, that can be attached to pallets and cases. RFID scanners can then be attached to loading docks, conveyors and portals to scan and transmit information about the product location anywhere in the world.
In the case of the Metro trial this means that Kimberly-Clark pallets selected for customer delivery are tagged in the warehouse before leaving the centralised despatch point. Information collected is then forwarded to Metro ahead of the pallet arrival, allowing them to predict what is arriving on which delivery. This in turns helps Metro with their goods inwards process.
Mike O'Shea, Kimberly-Clark's director-corporate AutoID/RFID Strategies & Technologies, said: "At Kimberly-Clark the immediate benefits are associated with reduced operating and supply chain costs, improved availability of stock on shelf in key retail outlets which in turn helps to drive consumer loyalty, reduction in finished goods stored in our warehouses and therefore better management of manufacturing capability and reliability.
"The use of RFID technology is in its infancy and we are delighted to be at the forefront of testing its capability. We want to see how RFID might evolve in the future and we're excited to be supporting what is a very dynamic and progressive retail environment."
Mike O'Shea is also co-chairperson of the EPCglobal (Electronic Product Code) Fast Moving Consumer Goods Business Action Group - the global organisation leading the development of industry-driven technical standards for the electronic product code which supports the use of RFID.
"With our largest global customers all implementing RFID, it is only a matter of time before RFID, with the EPC numbering scheme, will become the way we do business with all of our customers," says O'Shea.
Kimberly-Clark has created a dedicated 5,000 square-foot RFID research laboratory within its major production centre in Neenah, Wisconsin, US. A team of packaging engineers and information systems specialists are developing RFID packaging solutions to test their compatibility across the range of Kimberly-Clark products. Here, working retail conditions can be simulated and packaging integrity tested to the full against possible radio interference.
The laboratory is also currently testing technologies for the Wal-Mart, Target and Albertsons trials in the United States as well as focusing on European hardware, helping the company launch what should be a robust RFID trial with Metro in Germany and other major European retailers.