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Five European Leaders Speak Out on RFID

Amid financial and social unrest, decision-makers at midsize European companies explain why they are expanding their enterprise RFID deployments.
By John Edwards
Oct 01, 2011—Europe is experiencing its greatest financial and social crisis since the end of World War II. The economies of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and several other European Union (EU) member nations teeter on the brink, while governments in France, Germany and other financially healthier countries pull their belts ever tighter by raising taxes and trimming services.

Against this dreary backdrop, decision-makers at midsize European businesses ponder their radio frequency identification options. They understand that RFID has the proven ability to slash costs and boost revenue by streamlining operations across the supply chain and beyond. Yet sluggish markets, shrinking budgets, soaring taxes and fear of additional social and financial upheaval make planning far more difficult and riskier than in years past.

Compared with their mega-enterprise counterparts, business leaders at midsize companies have precious little maneuvering room. Smaller operating budgets make it harder to fund new projects, and tighter lending requirements make it difficult for many businesses—even financially sound ones—to borrow money, despite record-low interest rates. As if these troubles weren't enough, RFID decision-makers must also face the fact that government support is rapidly evaporating. The days when the European Commission (EC) and various national and local government organizations would lavish money on just about any RFID project that showed even a scintilla of commercial or social promise are over. Today, with fewer research grants available, new RFID projects must show significant potential for long-term success from the very beginning. Even then, funding—public or private—can be hard to find.

Considering all these challenges, you might think RFID's future in Europe is about as bleak as a finance minister's budget forecast. But that's not true. It's a sign of RFID's growing maturity and commercial value that new deployments continue arriving at a steady pace, with nimble midsize European businesses pioneering RFID innovations their larger counterparts are either too timid or too bureaucratic to create.

RFID Journal recently asked leaders of midrange European companies in five key fields—food production, logistics, retail, manufacturing and apparel—to reflect on their current relationships with the technology and the lessons they've learned, as well as to predict where things are headed. Their answers, as you'll see, are informative, illustrative for RFID leaders worldwide and, at times, controversial.
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