It's apparent that for RFID to be useful, readers must be present within a vicinity. This is fine for what you refer to as a closed system, such as tracking work-in-process in a manufacturing facility, or reusable containers in a warehouse. But this implies a company that sells to consumers through dealers—who, in turn, use deliverymen to take the product (e.g., a gas cylinder)—can not apply this technology to track the product at the end-user level. Hence, it would not be possible for such companies to employ RFID. Am I right about this?
RFID technology can be used internally to solve specific problems, such as keeping track of parts in a manufacturing facility, or controlling access to specific sections of a building. It can also be deployed as infrastructure across a company's supply chain. Creating infrastructure across an entire supply chain can be difficult, however, because it raises questions regarding who pays for the infrastructure—and who benefits. Some firms require their suppliers to tag parts or products, while others do not have such an option.
In regard to bar codes, the big benefit is that suppliers and retailers have already deployed the technology. RFID will likely evolve over time, and companies will eventually build out the infrastructure necessary to benefit from the technology across a supply chain. In the meantime, there are companies utilizing RFID to track goods through their dealerships, as well as their customers. Some businesses pay to deploy the infrastructure at the facilities of their customers and/or dealers. Others use handheld interrogators to scan items when they are delivered and picked up. It really depends on the business case, relationships and potential to share benefits.
There is no reason why a company could not tag gas cylinders and deploy portals within the facilities of its dealer, then arm that dealer with handheld readers. In such a scenario, the cylinders would be identified when they were moved onto a truck, and read upon arriving at the dealership. The dealers would read them again when putting them on a truck bound for a customer's facility. They would then read each tagged cylinder as it was dropped off and picked up at the client's site. The real question is this: Is there enough business benefit for the cylinder supplier to justify the expense?
—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal
Previous Post Is RFID Useful for Six Sigma Efforts? »