Green Is the New Green

By Mark Roberti

Responses to an RFID Journal survey indicate that even the retailers who are most educated about RFID are unfamiliar with many solution providers.

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It used to be that people focused on saving the environment were derided as “tree huggers.” These days, many companies realize that green (as in environmentally sound and sustainable) is the new green (as in greenbacks, or money). Radio frequency identification is helping companies cut energy and fuel costs, reduce the use of paper, manage hazardous waste and much more. And while all this is good for the environment, it is also good for the bottom line, as we report in this issue’s cover story, “Sustainability and Profit Go Hand in Hand.”

Some green and economic benefits grow out of deployments designed to solve specific business problems. Most retailers, for example, first deploy RFID to improve inventory and shipping accuracy. That, in turn, reduces the need to make extra deliveries to stores from distribution centers or other stores. Fewer deliveries saves time and money, and reduces fuel consumption. Fossil fuels burned for air, marine, rail and road transportation account for roughly 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And some bottom-line savings come from green initiatives. Cities and municipalities worldwide are using RFID to reduce the amount of trash that must be incinerated or buried in landfills and to encourage recycling. The automated systems also save labor, reduce fuel costs due to more efficient truck routes, and eliminate lost revenue from missed pickups and misplaced invoices.

Sawmill companies and wood products manufacturers are employing RFID to optimize forest production, improve the quality of wood products and minimize environmental damage. Furniture makers are adopting RFID to improve operations and customer service (see Automating Craftsmanship).

American Woodmark, for example, has deployed RFID at seven facilities, as well as at two U.S. and two international suppliers. The company tracks cabinet doors and drawer fronts at key points in the manufacturing process. The solution has enabled American Woodmark to manage inventory in real time, reduce errors and achieve a return on investment.

Two Israeli bed manufacturers are tracking components to ensure a complete set is included with each delivery order. That’s a use case the executive editor of this magazine, Andrea Linne, can appreciate. She ordered a bed last summer from Crate and Barrel in New York. The retailer had to visit her home three times to install the new bed, because the delivery person kept showing up without the correct parts. As a result, Crate and Barrel waived the delivery fee and issued a 10 percent credit, so the multiple trips wasted energy and hurt profits.

Increasingly, it’s hard to separate green and profitability goals. Companies that use RFID to monitor the temperature of produce, for example, decrease electricity costs associated with cooling and storage, increase sales because their products stay fresher longer and reduce waste, a cornerstone of sustainability.

RFID isn’t a cure-all, of course. But it seems that going green with RFID is a good business decision.

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.