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Moving Toward the Talking Tag
When combined with a voice-directed work system, an RFID implementation can yield an immediate ROI.
Jun 18, 2007—You can't pick up a supply chain journal today without reading about the monumental productivity advances promised by RFID. By allowing complete and accurate lifecycle-tracking of a product, analysts claim RFID will speed shipments, reduce errors and lower costs, more than justifying the expense of such systems.
Wal-Mart and Target, vendors wishing to do business with mass merchandisers must become RFID-compliant. What's more, the U.S. Department of Defense now requires all suppliers to affix RFID tags to inbound shipments. An industry consortium of more than 600 manufacturers, retailers and solution providers is developing standards and promoting tools and services to drive worldwide adoption of the technology.
But far from clarifying the issues surrounding RFID, all this headline-grabbing attention has only served to muddy the waters—especially when it comes to the integration of RFID and voice-directed work systems. Talk to distribution center (DC) managers, and they'll say that while there is a sense of urgency to get going on RFID, there is also some concern that RFID will eventually replace the voice systems they've already implemented.
This is where voice-directed work comes in. In essence, voice creates a two-way dialogue between the DC team and the information management system. Instead of relying on paper lists or handheld device display screens to relay information for others to interpret and act upon, team members use a far more natural form of communication—two-way conversation—to perform daily assignments. This capability makes team members more productive, more accurate and safer as they move from task to task, whether operating with a stationary RFID reader or a body-worn device.
Together, the potential productivity gains are staggering, because most distribution errors are the result of items being placed in the wrong location. With the combined capability of voice and RFID, a team member can be notified immediately if a given product contains the wrong items, or if it has expired or been recalled. This virtually eliminates the possibility of shipping incorrect or obsolete products.
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