Victory Land's Hudson Magloire went into the RFID project with some concerns. "You hear so much about the obstacles and difficulties in getting good read rates, having to make big changes to your business and spending a lot to put in a system," he says. "That perception changed the further we went along in our project. When you start doing it, it's a lot easier than it seemed it would be."
- Test, test, test. Because tags perform differently with different materials, at different locations, and at different channels within the UHF spectrum, it is important to complete thorough testing early in the process to avoid creating more issues as implementations scale up in volume.
- If you can, plan RFID from the ground up. Victory Land volunteered for early inclusion in Wal-Mart's compliance mandate in part because it was breaking ground on a new distribution center.
"We knew we wanted to take advantage of RFID technology internally," says Magloire. "We would learn about RFID and gain experience while tagging for Wal-Mart, and this would help us in building a competitive edge over non-RFID suppliers."
If your company will be involved in new construction or remodeling, implementing new applications or upgrading IT infrastructure, gaining experience with RFID and factoring it into your plans is a very good idea.
- Use the data. Soon after Pacific Cycle completed its pilot, staff realized that they had gained an understanding of RFID's physical requirements but no insights from the data. The information went into a database and just sat there until a company initiative was launched to translate RFID data upstream.
- Look beyond compliance for ROI. To leverage its RFID implementation, Beaver Street plans to use shipment data collected via RFID to automatically create a bill of lading and advance shipping notice for EDI transmission. Another goal is to push compliance labeling to worldwide suppliers.
Similarly, Victory Land plans to use RFID information for its planning and suppliers.
All three companies agree that leveraging compliance learnings is only the first step to ROI, and extending the technology internally requires business process and software re-engineering. But the payback is clear.
- Recognize that RFID is still a moving target and plan for change. Increasing numbers of companies plan to use RFID for compliance initiatives and for closed-loop applications to improve internal business processes. Initiatives like RFID asset and inventory tracking, work-in-process control, access control and patient and patron monitoring are already underway at many companies.
Academic institutions are setting up RFID labs and expanding research projects, and more vendors are entering the market. Global standards are being settled.
Certainly the RFID architecture in place today will change over the next 18 months, but that's to be expected. What's important to realize is that the vendor relationships you establish today will become more critical as implementations mature. By choosing strong and knowledgeable partners today, companies can ensure they're prepared for the many developments in RFID tomorrow.