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RFID, People and Process

When the technology doesn't work, it is often now a result of improper training or a failure to follow processes rigorously.
By Mark Roberti

In roughly 1 percent of the cases, there was no tag or bar code. In 0.3 percent of the cases, there was an issue with how the tag was encoded. The biggest problem was that 21 percent of the items had two tags, due to employees not being aware that the supplier had tagged an item, and thus putting on a second RFID tag. There were actually no dead tags found, and only 0.5 percent of the tags were not read during a cycle count. If the retailer were able to get suppliers to tag properly and eliminate the double tagging, accuracy would jump to that 95-percent-or-above level.

Other speakers also addressed these issues. Some retailers said they were considering switching from handheld readers to a more fixed infrastructure due to the challenges with ensuring cycle counts are conducted properly and in a timely way. Retailers, for example, often display women's ensembles in four or five different areas of the store, as opposed to one area for sweaters, one for jeans, one for dresses and so on. One challenge is making sure that when store associates take inventory of, say, women's sweaters—or "jumpers," as they say in England—they count all of the items in all areas of the store.

RFID almost always involves process change. That means employees need to be trained to use the technology and to follow the new process. Controls should be put in place to check that workers are following that process. This is not a huge challenge. In most cases, employees like RFID because it makes their job simpler and easier, and they can concentrate more on serving customers. But companies that don't do the training will likely have problems.

The point of this column is not to say RFID is perfect or to shift the blame for issues onto the users. Not at all. It is simply to point out that RFID is a very powerful tool, but for it to work properly, people have to be trained to use the tool and to follow the processes that make it effective.

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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