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Where Should I Start?

Posted By RFID Journal, 08.21.2014

What do I need to do if I want to deploy an RFID solution? We currently have a bar-code system in place.

—Name withheld

———

I hear this question a lot when I speak at events. This might seem counterintuitive, but I suggest you start with a vision for your company in which all things are tracked and managed all of the time, and then group the items you would like to track into buckets. List all the things you would track from a relatively short range (within 20 feet) and all items you would monitor at longer range (hundreds of feet).

It is unlikely that a single RFID system will enable you to track them all, so you can begin thinking about monitoring smaller items over shorter distances with a passive RFID system and larger assets over longer distances via active RFID. I don't know what your company does, but if you are a manufacturer, then parts, containers, manuals, tools and other items would likely be tracked via a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) system, while large tools, vehicles, subassemblies and other large assets might be tracked using an active system. Data culled from both systems, as well as from your existing bar-code system, should flow into the same platform in order to provide seamless visibility regardless of the data-capture device used.

Once you have this picture of what the complete system would look like, consider the list of assets you would want to track via RFID. Being able to better track and manage which items would deliver the most value to the company? If you are spending a million dollars annually to replace reusable transport items, RFID might be able to save you a lot of money there. But don't just look at a return on investment—that's not the only way to measure value. If RFID enables you to better serve a big customer by guaranteeing perfect deliveries on time, that might be more important than saving some money.

Once you have decided where the most value lies, conduct a pilot and test whether RFID delivers the expected benefits. Run the trial for a while and try to filter out any factors that might influence the RFID results either positively or negatively. If the system delivers the anticipated benefits, roll it out and then expand its use to other items that you would like to track and manage. Keep expanding it until you have covered all of the items on your list—and probably others that you'll add along the way.

The bottom line is that RFID should become part of your business infrastructure. If you don't start with that as your vision, then you might end up installing a system that will solve one business problem but not work for many other issues within your company.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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