The Tough Get Going

By Mark Roberti

Some companies are moaning about higher energy prices, the credit squeeze—even RFID tagging requirements—but others are seizing the opportunity.

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Things are tough, particularly here in the United States. Energy prices have skyrocketed. Credit has dried up. And some companies are faced with the additional cost of tagging each pallet, case or unit they sell through a big retailer. Some are moaning about their fate, but I get the sense that other CEOs are smiling. They understand that tough times present a great opportunity for those who are lean and efficient to steal a march on those who are not. It’s also an opportunity for those who aren’t so lean to streamline their operations and outflank their competitors.

I was reminded of this by a phone call I got the other day from a manufacturer of canned goods. He’s concerned about tagging mandates from Sam’s Club and wanted a copy of our report: The Complete Guide to Meeting Sam’s Club’s EPC RFID Tagging Requirements. “We want to get started right away,” he said. “I’m going to EPC Connection, but I don’t want to wait until then. If we have to do this, let’s do it.”

I told him the report will not be ready until we release it at EPC Connection, which is being held in Chicago, Oct. 14-16. “I don’t care—send me a draft,” he said. “Sam’s Club is our most important customer.”

I couldn’t send him even a draft but told him to join our Webinar on tagging sellable units on Wednesday, Oct 1, at 2 p.m. He said he would.

What impressed me is that he’s not from a large company with a lot of resources. He isn’t thrilled with the idea of tagging sellable units for Sam’s Club. But he’s not acting as if he’d just gotten slapped with a huge tax bill or found out the plumping in the office building he just bought needs to be replaced.

I talked to him for a while about some of the potential benefits his company might get. His responses indicated to me that he had no idea there might be ways to benefit from EPC RFID technology. I mentioned some cases studies we’d done and news stories that show some of the benefits others are achieving. I got the sense he was going to hang up the phone and start pulling these articles off the RFID Journal Web site. This guy is a doer, not a complainer.

Can tagging every pallet, case or sellable unit deliver value to suppliers? For some products, the answer is most definitely. For other products, the answer—at this stage—is no. And for a lot of products, the answer is maybe. But many companies do no investigation and simply push back against the mandates. If they are in financial difficulty, or even if they have other big projects going on, that’s understandable. But if they’re simply comfortable doing things the way they do them, that’s inexcusable.

Some of you are probably ready to fire off an angry e-mail saying: “It’s easy for you to say, Roberti. You’re not facing a mandate.”

True. But I’d like to believe that if I were being asked to tag for one of my largest customers, I’d step up to the plate and try to put my company in a position to seize the initiative and perhaps gain an edge on the competition. After all, as important as it is to make money today, it’s just as important to be able to make money tomorrow, and if you’re not getting ahead in business, you’re falling behind. There’s no doubt in my mind that RFID is an opportunity for those who embrace it.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.