HP Takes the Lead

Hewlett-Packard's RFID installation in Brazil, as well as other innovations with the technology, has put it squarely in the vanguard of forward-thinking companies leveraging auto-identification technologies.
Published: October 24, 2007

Last week, I went to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to speak at an RFID Symposium organized by Hewlett-Packard. For me, it was an opportunity to learn more about what HP is doing with RFID today, and where it is going. I left the Symposium very impressed.

Didier Chenneveau, VP and general manager of HP’s Americas operations, gave a presentation covering HP’s use of RFID in its Brazil assembly operations, which won the first RFID Journal Award for Best RFID Implementation (see Best RFID Implementation: Keeping Tabs on Printers). Some of the numbers he shared were presented at RFID Journal LIVE! 2007 in May, when HP accepted the award. Some were new.

Chenneveau showed that it takes an average of 25 minutes to assemble a printer, but that it can take as long as several hours in some cases. He put up a table showing how long the production lines were down based on standard measurements and RFID. It turned out the lines were down more than 2,000 hours that were not reported through traditional measures.

In addition, he showed how RFID can be used to make sure the first printers put into the warehouse are the first shipped. Most printers spend about a day in the warehouse, he said, but some can spend as long as two months. This can be an issue, given the shelf life of printer cartridges, and HP doesn’t want to sell printers that are too close to the cartridges’ expiration date.

Chenneveau also presented information about promotions execution using RFID data provided by a retail partner. The data showed that sales rose 140 percent when promotions were executed properly, and that on average, 48 percent of the promotional items were sold. When the promotion wasn’t executed properly, sales rose only 38 percent, and only 21 percent of the promotional items were sold.

He also showed off an “RFID hunter,” a device that can be pushed through a warehouse to locate specific pallets. HP had about 100,000 printers in the Brazil facility when I visited. Finding a few pallets that might have a problem and should not be shipped takes a long time when an employee must scan each bar code manually. The RFID hunter, on the other hand, can locate the right pallets very quickly. Flextronics, which assembles printers for HP in Brazil and elsewhere, is using a version of the hunter to locate tools used on assembly lines.

Read about my close-up look at HP’s RFID lab and RFID-enabled production facility—and the company’s investment in innovation—later this week. In the meantime, you can read about a prototype smart display case HP presented at the Symposium, which would store HP inkjet printer cartridges and provide the company with real-time information about the demand for different types available, here: HP Unveils Prototype Smart Display Case.