Cross-Industry Discussion Will Focus on RFID Deployments

By Claire Swedberg

GS1 US is launching a quarterly best practices program with a panel discussion in March, which will bring together industry experts to foster peer-to-peer learning and networking.

When GS1 US hosted peer-to-peer meetings to share its insights at past RFID Journal LIVE! events, members had a common request: could there be a venue for more conversations and sharing of learnings across industries? To address this need, as the use of RFID is building in verticals ranging from food and apparel retail to aerospace and healthcare, the not-for-profit, information standards organization is now launching a quarterly RFID Discussion Group.

The group's first meeting will take place as a teleconference on Mar. 24, 2022, and the group will thereafter convene on a quarterly basis. These 90-minute discussion programs will be centered around best practices for implementing Electronic Product Code (EPC)-enabled RFID to support supply chain and inventory management, according to Jonathan Gregory, GS1's community-engagement director. The discussion groups will aim to provide interoperable solutions and encourage collaboration.

Jonathan Gregory

GS1 US is focused on enabling supply chain solutions through unique identifiers that follow the organization's standards, including those for barcodes and UHF RFID. The goal of the RFID Discussion Group's meetings will not only dispense information to interested individuals and organizations, but also foster networking and dialogue. The initial program will include Matt Alexander, Walmart's senior director of merchandising innovation; Bill Hardgrave, Auburn University's provost and senior VP; and Mark Roberti, RFID Journal's founder and editor.

When it comes to RFID technology use throughout the past months, Gregory says, "We've seen growth in particular in the healthcare and in the food space—retail grocery and foodservice." He says GS1 US has noticed a lot of similarities across multiple industries, and that RFID benefits and challenges have commonalities in those sectors. For example, the capturing of expiration dates on perishable foods or pharmaceuticals is necessary in multiple industries. Another common use case is monitoring items in highly secured areas, such as tracking tools used in the assembly of aircraft, or sponges used in a surgical theater.

In both scenarios, tracking every item's location is critical. Manufacturing sites can face similar challenges that can be addressed via RFID, such as ensuring a piece of equipment or tool is returned from the factory floor at the end of the day. With such use cases, GS1 US sees an opportunity for crossover education. The discussion groups, will thus target deployment insights for specific industries, as well as parallels across numerous sectors.

"One of the definitions of innovation," Gregory says, "is taking a good idea that works in one industry and picking it up and carrying it into another." In recent years, he reports, attendance to RFID best practices programs has been high, indicating the need for more information. This, he says, includes "How do you deploy? How do you measure the value of a solution? And how do you train people?" The 90-minute program will be divided into sections that will include information regarding different industries, starting with retail and apparel.

Alexander is expected to share details about the value that Walmart has gained from RFID, and how it has successfully deployed the technology across its stores, (see Walmart Re-Commits to RFID and Walmart Tries RFID Again). Hardgrave will provide insights based on his work with Auburn University's RFID Lab since the early days of Walmart's RFID technology use. "He'll add a lot of rich understanding historically," Gregory says. Roberti, as the founder and editor of RFID Journal, will serve as a seasoned industry expert, Gregory adds, and will share observations about the current state of RFID, along with future opportunities.

GS1 US plans to contribute its own data analysis pertaining to EPC RFID deployments and technical challenges. That may include details about information gained around the world by other GS1 organizations. GS1 US envisions the program as an interactive experience. The intent is to bring in end users, solution providers and others in order to have meaningful conversations. Questions can be asked, Gregory says, and networking will be a part of the program as well. More sessions will follow, and each will likely feature three new panelists. The next one will take place live, in person, at the GS1 Connect trade show, to be held in San Diego on June 7-9, 2022.

Looking ahead, Gregory says, the RFID industry may have a year of growth. "I'm really excited about seeing how RFID is growing in industries such as food service," he states, in addition to the healthcare, aerospace and manufacturing industries. "There's a lot of work to do, a lot of opportunity out there, and it's great to see the technology cross the chasm from retail into other industries."

Those joining the RFID Discussion Group must be members of either GS1 US's industry initiative or solution partner program. Initiative groups fall into the categories of apparel and general merchandise, grocery, healthcare or food service, and initiative membership is free for non-profit and academic institutions. Participants in the group are expected to have skills in at least one of the following areas: data management, inventory management, supply chain or product management, operations or information technology.

Exhibitors at RFID Journal LIVE! 2022 offer tagging solutions for the food and apparel retail sectors, as well as for aerospace and healthcare. To learn more, visit the event's website.