A Time to Rebuild

By Mark Roberti

The pandemic left many businesses reeling and exposed others' executional problems. The coming year will be a time to fix those issues and restore the health of your business, and RFID can help.

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Jack Welch, the renowned former CEO of  General Electric, used to say that economic downturns were the best time to invest in new technologies because they enable companies to come out of a recession stronger, while competitors that fail to invest will be even weaker. New technologies let you take advantage of the rebounding economy and increase your competitive advantage.

If your company spent the past year investing in RFID, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and other key technologies, good for you. As the economy rebounds, you will be in great shape to reap the benefits of those investments. If you didn’t, it’s not too late to do so. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic probably made clear exactly where you need to invest.

Many companies experienced execution problems. These included supply chain issues, as goods could not be delivered to customers on time due to a lack of visibility and transparency; manufacturing issues related to poor tracking of parts and resources; and an inability to deliver to customers who purchased online and either wanted items shipped from their local store or to pick them up at the store themselves.

Warren Buffet famously said: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked.” It was clear during the pandemic that a lot of companies were swimming at least without a complete bathing suit to cover their faults. I ordered an item from the local store of a large home improvement chain. The company’s website said there were 38 items in stock at my location, yet I received a call a few hours later saying my order had been canceled because there were actually none in stock. Wow.

RFID and IoT technologies provide the visibility that companies need to improve their execution. By making it possible to take inventory weekly, these technologies allow companies to have far more accurate counts. They can thus quickly find items or assets in the supply chain or at a manufacturing plant and execute without delays. This kind of visibility proves critical when key employees with years of institutional knowledge are out because of a pandemic, or if they leave for another job.

The data that RFID provides resides not in the head of one or two key employees, but in your IT systems, enabling anyone to step in and manage effectively. Smart companies are fixing the execution issues they experienced throughout the past year, and they will do well as the global economy rebounds. Or, to put it another way, they’ll have a nice, shiny swimsuit on the next time the tide goes out.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.