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Aberdeen on Scaling RFID from Pilot to Production

Research firm Aberdeen Group this week released the second in a series of reports on RFID adoption. Entitled , the report is available free. In this guest contribution, report author John Fontanella summarizes the key findings and recommendations for action.
Jun 29, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 29, 2006—The challenges of implementing RFID are only just starting to be recognized. Companies working under customer mandates are seeing increased demands for RFID tagged cases. Others are using the technology to raise the level of performance in areas such as asset management and tracking, counterfeit detection, security and supply chain visibility. Enterprises are planning to implement RFID on a broad scale, and with this comes the inevitable question of how to integrate technology and information at the "edge" with the rest of the enterprise.

Through a survey of companies across multiple industries, the Aberdeen Group report The RFID Benchmark Series: Scaling RFID Implementations from Pilot to Production released this week examines how organizations will expand the scope of their RFID deployments to take advantage of the unique value that RFID promises to deliver. While most of the attention is currently fixed on managing around the obstacles that the laws of physics present at a shipping dock or manufacturing line, more difficult challenges will arise when RFID moves out of pilot stage and is deployed across the enterprise.

Implications & Analysis

Survey respondents foresee significant expansion of RFID deployments over the next five years. Almost 50 percent of companies say they will have anywhere from two to ten RFID-enabled sites (facilities separated geographically with their own local area networks) by 2008. That number is predicted to grow to between 20 and 100 sites by the year 2011. Companies now are focusing on building in the reliability, security, and administrative practices that are required to roll out RFID on such a large scale.

Survey respondents indicate that while strengthening the technical infrastructure on which RFID sits is a critical element of wide-scale deployment, other considerations must be incorporated into the overall plan. Implementation strategies must account for the differences in processes and workflows, even within the same function, that are found in different locations and operational groups. Companies will be challenged to manage, analyze, and distribute the large streams of data that will inevitably come from broad RFID deployments. The implications are many for corporate strategies driving network design, enterprise application integration, and business intelligence.

While the report focuses on wide-scale RFID deployment, its findings are just as relevant to the adoption of other "edge" technologies ranging from mobile devices to sensor technologies. Capturing their true value is dependent not only on how widely they are used, but how well the enterprise can incorporate and operationalize the data they capture.

Recommendations for Action

Deploying RFID across the enterprise presents new challenges but also opens up new opportunities. The most aggressive adopters of RFID recognize that its deployment across an entire enterprise requires a thorough examination of the implications to both technology and process within the enterprise. The following are recommendations for action based on report findings:
  • Align plans for broad RFID deployment with overall technical architectural and infrastructure strategies.
  • Based on the rapid evolution of RFID middleware, reevaluate the role it plays in overall RFID strategy as well as the method deployment.
  • Select RFID technology that provides both flexibility and scalability in order to accommodate process variations within business operations.
  • Don't allow RFID implementations to become islands of technology and information. Integrate with organizations and applications that can benefit from the transparent view it creates.
  • Conducting business with data collected by sensory, identification, and mobile devices will soon become ubiquitous in the enterprise. Use RFID strategies as the first step in planning how edge technologies will be integrated into the enterprise.
  • The findings and recommendations of the report apply to companies both expanding RFID deployments and those that are just starting RFID pilots. If in the initial stages of implementation, now is the time to start planning for future expansion of RFID.
  • Investigate automated technologies that can manage bill of materials, facilities requirements, configuration, and other administrative tasks across large scale deployments of RFID.
The full report, The RFID Benchmark Series: Scaling RFID Implementations from Pilot to Production, is available free on Aberdeen's website.
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