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Steering a Successful Rollout

The issues vary from one company to the next, but there are some common strategies that can up the odds of success.
By Mark Roberti
Dec 13, 2013

Most companies run pilots of new radio frequency identification applications to be sure the technology works in their environments and the solution delivers the promised benefits. But how do you go from successful pilot to successful deployment?

We asked contributing writer John Edwards to find out. He interviewed end users, system integrators and other experts who have participated in winning rollouts, as well as a few failed attempts. The issues, Edwards writes in our cover story, vary from company to company, but there are some common strategies that can up the odds of success. The story explains how to execute the strategies, so you can deploy a solution that delivers benefits for the long term.

Photo: Tom Hurst | RFID Journal
One of the big lessons is to begin with a clear plan at the pilot stage. Sounds obvious, but many organizations don't identify the problem they are trying to solve and how the pilot solution will address it. They fail to document their current processes, and to set rules and benchmarks to evaluate the pilot.

Success defined as having 100 percent visibility of work-in-process all the time, for example, is very different from success defined as a 10 percent increase in production due to greater visibility of WIP.

It's also important to get buy-in from senior management, Edwards writes. Lukewarm support could lead to project cancellation, especially if any glitches occur. And some glitches or unforeseen obstacles usually do appear when a pilot is expanded into a rollout. While you work out any system kinks, be sure management understands the benefits to be gained from rolling out the solution. In addition, don't underestimate the importance of training employees who will be working with the new system.

Several major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors conducted successful RFID pilots from 2005 through 2007. California and other states had passed electronic-pedigree laws, and these companies were getting ready to track each unique bottle of pills or vile of serum. Then, California postponed its drug pedigree legislation, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stepped in. As Jennifer Zaino explains in this issue's Vertical Focus, technology concerns, cost and a lack of education have derailed the use of RFID for e-pedigree—for now.

Getting buy-in for an RFID deployment is not always a question of return on investment. Often, ensuring employee health is the primary factor. That's clearly the case when it comes to locating employees during an emergency. Increasingly, energy and mining companies, hospitals, industrial manufacturers and schools are piloting and deploying RFID personnel safety solutions. For a look at the different systems available, see Product Developments.

Regardless of what RFID application you are deploying, remember to follow best practices each time you go from pilot to rollout. In our January/February issue, we'll examine the key issues to consider when you roll out an RFID solution at other locations.

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