A Little Bit of Passion

By Bob Violino

Is it possible to get excited about a supply chain technology?


June 9, 2003 – I have a good friend that I’ve known since my days as a journalist in Southeast Asia. He likes to tease me about radio frequency identification. “You’ve traveled to more than 30 countries, been to deepest Mindanao during the Philippine insurgency and penetrated the highest echelons of power in Hong Kong,” he says. “How could you possibly get excited about a supply chain technology?”

Interesting question. Perhaps it’s because I’m no longer a twentysomething hotshot journalist who thinks he can change the world. Perhaps it’s because I don’t see RFID as just a supply chain technology. But I think the real answer is that I’m not passionate about RFID. I’m passionate about what RFID can do. I’m absolutely convinced that it has tremendous potential to boost productivity and reduce waste in ways that previously seemed unimaginable. I also believe that achieving those benefits won’t be easy, and that’s what makes each day exciting.

President John F. Kennedy was once asked during a press conference whether he was happy. He’d gone through the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the young president was struggling to find his footing. He responded by saying that the ancient Greeks believed that happiness was using all one’s faculties in the pursuit of excellence. Being president was an enormous challenge, he said. Success required using all of his faculties, so yes, he was happy.

I’ve always related to that comment. Challenging yourself to fix something, to do something in a better way, even to make something difficult work the way it was designed to work brings a sense of joy. If I were a supply chain manager, I’m sure I’d wake up every day eager to go to work, eager to find new ways to make things run more efficiently. I’m sure many of you do. Unfortunately, I can’t use my faculties to reduce waste in a complex supply chain, but I can use them — through the resources of RFID Journal — to inform, enlighten and hopefully inspire those who can make a difference at their company. That brings its own sense of pride and accomplishment.

Next week, RFID Journal will be holding its first executive conference in Chicago. This is a big thing for me, personally. I frankly don’t care whether we attract the most attendees of any RFID event. That’s meaningless. You can give tickets away — and many events do — to get warm bodies to show your sponsors. What’s important is getting the message across to attendees. Converting people into believers.

Unlike at most other RFID shows, the vast majority of our attendees will be end-users end users or potential end users. They will be hearing from folks like Larry Kellam of Procter & Gamble, Keith Mahoney of Marks & Spencer, Richard Langford of Movie Gallery, Geoff O’Neill of Woolworths and others who have hands on experience with the technology. I’m sure that attendees are going to hear that RFID technologies are not simple to deploy. But they will also hear about the tremendous benefits you can achieve if you get it right.

My great hope is that after hearing these stories, people will be inspired. If those of us who believe that RFID, when deployed properly, can make companies more efficient, more productive and more profitable can spread even a little bit of that passion, then maybe the attendees will go back to their companies and convince higher-ups to launch a pilot. Maybe they’ll find the energy to stick with the pilot, make it a success and then get their company to commit to a small rollout. And when these people see real results, they will likely feel good about what they’ve accomplished and start to feel passionate about RFID.

That’s what drives me. Call me naïve, but each day a reader says one of our stories helped him or her is a good day, regardless of what else happened. And if even just one or two attendees write to me after RFID Journal Live! and say they now see how RFID can boost efficiency, and they’re going to take up the cudgels inside their company, then I’ll consider the event a success. I’ll feel I used all my faculties to achieve something worthwhile.

(Please note that RFID Journal will not be publishing its weekly newsletter this week because of the conference. We will, however, continue to update the Web site daily with news from the event.)

Mark Roberti is the Editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, send e-mail to

RFID Journal Home