Building the Channel

Printronix is aggressively building up its channel, and that's important if RFID is going to become widespread.
Published: October 20, 2006

During the EPCglobal US Conference, I met with David Sakai of Printronix, who talked about his company’s effort to develop a channel for selling RFID through third parties. One thing he mentioned that struck me as very smart was that Printronix has partnered with an RFID training company to provide its channel partners with the opportunity to get a CompTIA RFID+ Certification at a discount.

The reason this is smart is simple. When RFID becomes widespread, vendors such as Printronix won’t be able serve the market alone. They will need to rely on qualified resellers to sell, install and service their RFID label printers and applicators. The vendor community could wait for resellers to get up to speed on RFID on their own, but that could create a bottleneck if RFID ramps up quickly at some point. By being pro-active, companies such as Printronix are ensuring that they can meet the demand for their products when it comes.

The way Printronix is using the CompTIA RFID+ Certification is exactly how I hoped companies would use it. Unfortunately, not every company has supported the certification as a way to ensure that their partners are up to speed with RFID. Some vendors among the Cornerstone committee members who established the certification test are not supporting it, for example. That is, they are not requiring new technical hires to be RFID+ certified. Why is a mystery to me.

If you buy a Printronix printer or high-speed applicator from a reseller, you don’t know for certain that that reseller can install and service the device, but you have a very good idea that it can. That’s because Printronix has required the reseller to undergo training to be able to support its product and RFID+ certification to prove that it at least understands the basics of RFID systems and system installation. I hope end users support Printronix’s forward-thinking strategy and buy from those who have RFID+-certified resellers. That way, we can establish some baselines ensuring that the people you buy product from actually have a clue about what RIFD is, how it works and what is needed to deploy hardware properly.