Lessons Learned from RFID Training, Part 2
I concluded yesterday's article by noting that RFID technology is still very complex. This simple fact leads to the following key points for any corporation considering a deployment.
Jun 24, 2005
—This article was originally published by RFID Update.
June 24, 2005—In yesterday's top story I described the Top Gun RFID training from which I just returned, hosted by RFID Global Solution (RFIDGS) at their Innovation Center in Rogers, Arkansas. I concluded the article by noting that the overall impression I came away with is just how complex RFID technology still is. This simple fact leads to a number of key points for any corporation considering a deployment. (These points all deal specifically with RFID in the supply chain, as that was the focus of the training.)
RFIDGS's Louis Sirico said something to me about one of his company's goals with respect to clients that I think captures the essence of the above points: "We try to help them develop RFID into a core competency." RFID, however imperfect and expensive it may be today, is not going away. Treat the technology seriously by developing a strategy and approaching it from a long-term perspective rather than as a one-off cost center. Whether you initially develop the expertise in-house or farm it out, eventually you should aim to have internal knowledge of RFID and how it works in your organization's unique environment. By doing so you will start to realize competitive advantage in a way that only RFID can offer.
- RFID technology is finicky. This is an extremely basic but important premise that one only fully realizes when witness to a deployment in development. The technology behaves differently based on any number of factors, including orientation, the type of products being tagged, and an infinite array of environmental characteristics. All of these factors can be harnessed or otherwise overcome, but it takes knowledge and experience, which leads to the next two points.
- There is much to learn. Successfully deploying RFID technology requires knowledge of: radio frequency engineering and design, supply chain management, logistics, warehouse management, and familiarity with RFID products and brands, to name but a few. The synthesis of these varied but extremely specific skill sets is a key element for success.
- Experience is necessary. There is no shortcut to gaining the skill sets above; they come from extensive, on-the-ground experience. A trend seen in the industry today is a proliferation of "RFID specialists." Be wary of anyone calling themselves that. Ask for references and a list of successful deployments. Given the overall shortage of RFID expertise, many people take some training classes or work with a few products whereupon they consider themselves qualified to do a deployment. While such individuals or companies certainly do have more knowledge than the average person with respect to RFID, that hardly means they are ready for primetime.
- Every deployment is different. Implementing RFID and is not like installing a LAN, in which there is a tried-and-true, cookie-cutter process that can be followed with a just a few customizations. While the fundamentals of an RFID implementation are of course similar, the devil is in the details. Each company's products, processes, and physical environment are different, and these idiosyncrasies conspire to ensure that no two implementations are alike. As instructor and RFIDGS co-founder Louis Sirico said, "RFID-in-a-box doesn't really exist!"
- Expect problems and delays. Precisely because each environment is so different, there will be unpredictable variables that rear their heads and must be dealt with. This is where team experience becomes so important. The more experienced the RFID team, the more able they will be in locating and eliminating glitches along the way. During the training, the instructors were constantly citing examples from their client work of quirky environmental variables introducing complications and how they worked around them. So the point is not to aim to totally avoid hiccups; they are inevitable. The point is have an RFID team that is competent, experienced, and knowledgeable enough to handle them.
- Provide internal RFID training. As with any new technology, your staff must know how to use (and not use) it. An RFID implementation introduces a lot of new hardware and processes to an organization, getting its fingers into a lot of areas of your business. At each of these points, your employees must be told how to deal with the technology.
See the Top Gun RFID Training Course website