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Tracking Your Competitors

Why you should care where you are in the RFID adoption phase.
By Bill Hardgrave
While the majority of end users are still in the early stages of RFID adoption, at least they are actively investigating and/or implementing the technology. I am concerned about the many retailers who are not yet asking about RFID deployment.

The fact is, any retailer without RFID has an inventory accuracy problem. Many retailers know they have a problem but do not want to admit it. Others truly do not realize they have a problem—they look at existing data and assume all is well, when, in reality, they are relying on bad information. And some retailers realize they have a problem and spend lots of resources trying to correct it. (Typically, they hire more workers to manually scan the bar codes on items, which is expensive and inefficient.)

Remember, the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging you have one. Then, you need good data to fix the problem. And third, you must address the related cost concerns. Tracking items with RFID provides good data and is more cost-effective than increasing labor resources.

In the near future, retailers will require RFID to be competitive. It's time for all retailers to ask, "Am I using or planning to use RFID to improve inventory accuracy?" If the answer is no, it's time to take steps to get into the game.

Bill Hardgrave is the dean of Auburn University's College of Business and the founder of University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center. He will address other RFID adoption and business-case issues in this column. Send your questions to hardgrave@auburn.edu.

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