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Creating Confidence in RFID Data
Companies are employing a variety of strategies to convince both staff members and senior management that information provided by radio frequency identification systems is accurate.
I've heard of a number of retailers that turned off RFID systems after running a pilot and measured the change in key performance indicators (KPIs). Since manual counts are so inaccurate, it's not useful to take inventory manually and then with RFID. In addition, if not all items are tagged in the store properly (some goods will inevitably not have tags, while others will have two or even three tags), it's impossible to compare the manual counts to RFID results.
To obtain a more realistic picture of the accuracy of their RFID data, some retailers now carry out a pilot and perform inventory counts daily so they can measure replenishment. They measure the on-shelf availability of certain items or all items (depending on whether they are tagging all departments). And they measure shrinkage (employee theft and shoplifting) and other key metrics. Then, by turning off the system, they can measure how these KPIs degraded without RFID after a few months.
I've also heard of manufacturers who tell staff members to manually count items every day in order to satisfy some managers who question whether the RFID system is accurate. Invariably, the employees come back after a few days and say there's no point in doing this daily since the RFID solution is always accurate.
Some hospitals use their real-time location system (RTLS) for several months before providing personnel with access to the system. The idea is to get benchmark data regarding the asset-utilization rates for mobile medical equipment. (I wish there were a way to track employees to determine how much time they spend searching for equipment.) To my knowledge, no hospital has published any results yet, perhaps because asset-utilization rates are so low. But when they turn on the system, they can show workers that it accurately monitors the locations of assets, and can thus put credible numbers behind their claims that the RTLS improves inventory accuracy.
This is not to say RFID systems are prefect. No technology is perfect. But a solution that is installed and configured properly usually provides highly accurate and reliable data. And at some point, everyone will trust the technology enough to believe in the information it provides. But right now, it's good to see businesses building credibility for the technology by showing the data is highly accurate.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.
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