The Right Time to Invest

By Mark Roberti

Some companies are reducing their investments in RFID, which is why this might be the best time to invest.

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Last week, I bumped into a long-time reader of RFID Journal who runs the RFID program at a major consumer packaged goods company. He congratulated me on hiring Kenny Nova as president (see Former Fortune Executive Joins RFID Journal). I thanked him and told him how excited I was about our plans for 2006, which we'll be announcing next month. He said he was surprised we're so committed to investing in the market.

"You know, I heard another RFID publication just pulled out of the market," he said, "and a couple of vendors have decided to pull out of RFID and focus on other markets."

"Yes, that's true," I said, "but Jack Welch always said that the best time to invest in the market is when others are pulling back."

Welch, of course, is the legendary chairman and CEO of General Electric, and he knew a thing or two about markets and competition. I think smart companies—both end users and vendors—would do well to take a page from his book. Yes, RFID adoption isn’t happening as fast as some had hoped, and it hasn’t transformed the supply chain overnight. But it was inevitable that RFID could not live up to the hype.

There are two questions companies have to ask themselves now if they want to benefit from RFID in the medium- to long-term (or, in the case of vendors, be a player in the market in the long-term):

• Do I have the resources to invest?

• And do I believe this technology will deliver a significant return on that investment in the long term?

If the answers are “yes,” it's a good time for end users to invest in the technology because they will be in a position to reap the benefits as the technology improves and costs come down. And vendors can steal a march on competitors by improving their products and developing new ones that deliver business value to end users.

In RFID Journal's case, the answers are clearly “yes” and “yes.” When I launched the company nearly four years ago, it wasn't in the belief that RFID would take off overnight and that I would flip the company, get rich and sail off on a yacht to Aruba. I believed RFID had the potential to deliver tremendous business value and make companies far more efficient in the long term. I saw it as an evolutionary process, with many short-term improvements leading to a long-term transformation. I wanted to chronicle that change over the next decade or two.

My view hasn't changed. The market has evolved from blue-sky optimism to hard-nosed realism, and it will continue to evolve. RFID Journal will continue to anticipate the changing informational needs of end users and invest to meet those needs. For us, it's not about trying to make a pile of dough in the short term. It's about helping companies get business benefits from RFID, educating people and growing the market. So my advice is, invest wisely now in figuring out how RFID can improve your operations and reap the rewards in a couple of years.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below.