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Why End Users Should Discuss Their RFID Deployments

If the RFID market flourishes, companies will achieve greater benefits.
By Mark Roberti
Nov 03, 2014

Recently, I criticized providers of radio frequency identification technology for missteps that prevent them from selling solutions and growing the market (see RFID Fantasies and How to Grow the RFID Market, Part 1 and Part 2). The truth is, some end users are also making decisions that not only prevent the technology from spreading faster, but are contrary to their own interests.

I'm thinking mainly of end-user companies that place blanket bans on discussing their deployments and refuse to talk about them because they believe RFID delivers a competitive advantage that needs to remain a secret. Such strategies are counterproductive and prevent businesses from achieving greater benefits, and from being viewed by customers and analysts as efficient and forward-thinking.

If you are a retailer, for example, it is more efficient to have all of your suppliers RFID-tagging at the source, so you won't have to place tags on items arriving at your distribution center. But if you refuse to talk about how you use RFID to manage in-store inventory, then other retailers will assume adoption is not progressing and will not move forward with their own projects. That, in turn, discourages more suppliers from tagging at the source.

Even if you control your own supply chain as a vertically integrated retailer, it still makes sense to promote adoption because wider adoption drives down the cost of tags and readers. Speaking in London at our recent RFID Journal LIVE! Europe conference, Richard Jenkins, Marks & Spencer's head of RFID strategic development, said he hoped all retailers would use RFID "because that will make my tags cheaper" (see Marks & Spencer Expands RFID to All Its Stores).

Many manufacturers are in the same boat. Take Airbus, which has been very public about many of its RFID projects (see RFID Takes Airbus to New Heights of Efficiency and Airbus Leads the Way). The airplane manufacturer wants to encourage suppliers to put tags on airplane parts so it can track them, and RFID can also be used to maintain an aircraft after it is sold. While Airbus wants to use the technology to reduce the cost of assembling its airplanes, it knows that it sells planes based on size, fuel efficiency, reliability, comfort, total cost of ownership and many other factors.

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