Could our business accomplish this goal using radio frequency identification?
You certainly could. But I think the better question would be whether or not it makes business and financial sense to do so.
The cost of deploying an RFID system is difficult to determine without knowing a great deal more about your document-handling process, as well as the environment in which the documents are stored and used. But for the purpose of helping you formulate a strategy for making a decision about whether you should pursue such a solution, let me throw out some numbers. Keep in mind that they could be way off-base, if I’ve made any bad assumptions about your operations.
So let’s assume that the 3,000-plus documents arrive today and are stored within a central repository containing a lot of aisles and shelving. Let’s say you have five workers who receive the documents and put them away. And let’s say these documents are requested by personnel from time to time. It might take the document-handling employee an average of eight or ten minutes to locate these documents. Moreover, when documents have been checked out, they might not be promptly returned, requiring staff members to manually look for them. You could calculate the amount of time staff members spend searching for documents—say, 25 hours per week—and your cost of labor. If someone earns $25 per hour with benefits, then the cost of searching for documents would be $625 per week, or $32,500 annually.
RFID can probably reduce the amount of time spent searching for documents by 90 to 95 percent, saving almost $30,000 per year (more if you factor in the cost per hour of the employee waiting to receive the documents). But there is, of course, a cost associated with the RFID system itself. Let’s say it costs 10 cents for each tag put on a document. That’s $300 per week times 52 weeks, or $15,600 annually. It might also take an employee two hours per week to tag the documents and enter them into your document-management system. That’s another $2,750 in recurring costs. Plus, you’ll need to spend, say, $20,000 for a few handheld readers, as well as software to send data to your existing document-management system in a useable format.
So your first year’s expense would be $20,000 for software and handhelds, $15,600 for tags and $2,750 in labor, or $38,350. The system would pay for itself, under this scenario, in approximately 15 months. You’ll need to plug in your own numbers to determine if tagging 3,000 documents makes sense for you, however.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal