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How RFID Can Sharpen Your Business Intelligence

The former worldwide program director of RFID for Hewlett-Packard and Asia Pacific regional director for EPCglobal explains how the technology can be used to improve the quality of your business decisions.
By Ian Robertson
Good supply chain practice is to try to get logical and physical data to match as closely as possible. This has numerous benefits, but ensuring that a company's accounts accurately reflect its current assets on hand is reason enough on its own. No system is foolproof, but the use of radio frequency identification can get you much closer to recording data that matches what is physically taking place.

If your RFID infrastructure and processes are correctly set up, then just bringing each pallet or carton through the receiving door, past the antennas, should automatically record that receipt at the precise time that it actually physically occurred. And this principle of automatically and logically recording what is physically happening can be applied to many other supply chain processes as well, such as a manufacturing stage being executed, or a completed unit leaving the end of a manufacturing line.

Most business decisions at your company—even top-level strategic ones—are based upon business intelligence that is usually an aggregation of what has taken place within your operations. Indeed, all levels of reporting, except that of the raw physical events, are aggregations of those events. Reporting volumes, production rates, capacity usage, process times, inventory levels, inventory turns and order cycle times are all examples of aggregations of raw data regarding a physical event that took place within your operations. So it follows that anything you can do to improve the quality of your raw physical event data will ultimately improve the quality of those aggregations, management reports and business intelligence.

Implementing RFID into your processes can often provide an increase in the accuracy of that raw data. And it can make it viable to collect information more frequently, at a more granular level, and in areas where it was not viable to do so before.

RFID is an exciting technology. But the intelligent use of the data that the technology collects can be even more exciting—and good for your business, too.

Ian Robertson, formerly Hewlett Packard's worldwide program director of RFID, is the CEO of Supply Chain RFID Consulting. Robertson is also the author of Improving Supply Chains Using RFID & Standards, a book that explains how RFID data can benefit businesses, from the receiving of raw materials all the way to the sales of end products to customers or consumers, as well as the benefits of employing the technology to process returns through reverse logistics. Copies of the book may be purchased at RFID Journal's Web site.

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