The Need to Get Lean

By Mark Roberti

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I was speaking to a friend in the financial sector the other day, and he was painting a very gloomy picture of the economic situation. “This de-leveraging of the consumer is going to take time to wind itself out,” he said. “There’s still a lot of credit card debt out there [in the United States], and a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and not be able to repay it. Credit could be tight for 18 to 24 months.”

The longer the economic recovery takes, the more important it will be for companies to invest in new technologies that make them leaner and more efficient. If the downturn lasts only nine to 12 months, most companies can hunker down and weather the storm. But if the recession lasts longer than that, merely cutting costs might not be enough to survive.

To survive a protracted downturn, companies need to change their cost structure. For large companies, that might mean closing plants, consolidating offices, selling off divisions that have been losing money and so on. For midsize and smaller companies that don’t have such options, it might mean rethinking the way they produce and deliver goods. They need to automate more processes and perhaps consider outsourcing.

Radio frequency identification technologies aren’t a cure-all. They can’t radically change a company’s cost structure, but they can deliver savings and efficiencies in a relatively short period of time. And for companies looking for every edge, they could prove to be extremely important. In our cover story, we examine how companies that invested in technology in previous downturns fared. We also highlight seven RFID applications that can cut costs and deliver a return on investment in 12 months or less, and we cite specific examples of companies and organizations that implemented these solutions and became more efficient.

No industry has been hit harder in this downturn than the financial sector. Some banks have failed, and others have required government help to stay in business. One bright spot for the banks has been the use of RFID to cut the cost of managing the assets in their data centers. If your company runs its own data center, you can learn from these financial institutions.

If you’re a Sam’s Club supplier, you’re not in a position to make a choice about whether to deploy RFID, but we explain how compliance packages on the market can help you tag sellable units. We also provide some advice on how to integrate tagging into your operations in the most cost-effective way.

We asked our readers how the economic downturn would affect their investment in RFID technology. What we found is that a healthy percentage of end users aren’t planning to cut their RFID deployments. Instead, they’re looking for short-term savings as well as long-term gains in efficiency. That’s the right approach, and there’s no doubt in my mind that these companies will emerge from the recession—no matter how long it lasts—stronger and more competitive.