Free the People

By Mark Roberti

Workers want to be more efficient, so project managers should show them how RFID can help them break the shackles of the old way of doing things.


Last week, I was in Toulouse, France, for an International Air Transport Association (IATA) event focused on the use of radio frequency identification in the airline industry. During lunch on the first day, I sat across from a gentleman from Airbus who is an expert on change management. I made a comment to this effect: “Most people always resist change.”

“No,” he said. “Actually, they don’t.”

As we talked, he pointed out that if you force change down people’s throats, they resist. I said that when senior managers come in and say, “We’re going to make the warehouse more efficient with RFID,” what the warehouse workers (and even managers) hear is, “You haven’t been doing your job well, so we need to deploy this technology to fix things.”

He agreed. The more I thought about this conversation, the more I realized that this expert was right. People don’t resist change. In fact, most people want to be efficient, which is one of the reasons workers tend to hoard equipment. A nurse doesn’t want to spend her afternoon searching for an oxygen pump, so she might hide one in the morning, knowing she will need it in the afternoon. She wants to be efficient at her job.

Of course, hoarding leads to excessive purchases of capital equipment and is wasteful. So what we need to do is utilize radio frequency identification and other technologies to help workers become more efficient. This week, a number of speakers at our RFID in Health Care conference will explain how their hospitals are using RFID to improve supply chain efficiency or give nurses real-time information about the location and condition of medical equipment (whether it is it in use, is in need of cleaning or is ready to be used).

What is the best way to manage the change that comes with deploying RFID systems? Project leaders need to engage workers who will be using or be affected by the system. If you ask for suggestions about how an RFID solution can be employed to improve someone’s job, that person will be more than happy to offer some. Some might not be realistic, but you can explain why that is and implement those that make sense.

RFID is a bottom-up technology. By that, I mean that deployments usually begin with a practical problem on the shop floor, in the warehouse or at a retail store. Someone within that environment wants to solve a problem and discovers that RFID might be the solution. Even when senior management agree that RFID can transform the company and make it more efficient, the RFID project team should remember that change—particularly transformational change—has to begin with the front-line workers.

My advice to RFID project leaders would be to educate everyone at your company about what the technology can do. Encourage each employee to think about how RFID might make his or her job better, easier or more efficient. Ask for suggestions and pursue projects that deliver benefits and are in line with your company’s overall RFID strategy. The result will be a more efficient company—and happy and more productive employees.

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.