U.K. Slow to Implement RFID

By Jonathan Collins

A survey by supply chain association e.centre shows that despite a belief in RFID’s benefits, few U.K. companies plan to implement the technology this year.


Only 15 percent of U.K. companies have plans to introduce RFID into their organizations, according to the latest survey from e.centre, the supply chain standards association charged with promoting the uptake of EPCglobal in the United Kingdom. The survey questioned 200 U.K. supply chain managers in midsize and large enterprises across a range of industries in November and December last year. Its findings contrast with those of a similar poll that e.centre conducted last summer among consumer goods retailers that found 40 percent of respondents planning RFID deployments by 2005.

David Weatherby

“We would expect not just the retail supply chain to be interested in RFID, as there is a whole range of other supply chains such as healthcare, defense and automotive that can also benefit from RFID deployment,” said David Weatherby, RFID program manager at e.centre, a London-based nonprofit organization affiliated with standards-developer EAN International.

In the latest survey, the majority of respondents were in the manufacturing and construction industries, with a little more than 25 percent in the retail and automotive industries. Companies in other industries—wholesale and distribution or imports; professional services; leisure and catering; publishing and printing; and telecommunications and IT—made up far smaller segments of the respondents.

While U.K. companies are cautious about RFID deployments, they are confident that RFID can help their businesses. Eighty-eight percent of respondents thought that RFID was either beneficial for immediate use or potentially useful in the future. Only 8 percent, however, are currently using or piloting the technology.

The survey also found that while 61 percent of supply chain managers are aware of RFID technology, it was the largest companies that are leading the way with planned deployments. Just 20 percent of supply chain managers in companies with more than 250 employees said they were either using or piloting RFID systems, while 30 percent of supply chain managers in companies with more than 500 employees who are not using RFID systems said they plan to introduce the technology in the near future.

While respondents in some other surveys have expressed concerns about deploying RFID in a manner that protects the privacy of consumers, that issue was not a significant one among U.K. supply chain managers. The latest e.centre survey found that 78 percent of respondents are unconcerned about privacy issues.

“It’s not clear whether this is because the respondents don’t understand consumers’ privacy concerns, or if it is because they are concentrating on RFID use in the supply chain,” says Weatherby.

According to e.centre, the survey shows that U.K. is losing momentum in regard to deploying RFID. This comes in contrast to the strong initial interest shown when the U.K. government launched the Chipping of Goods Initiative in March 2000 to demonstrate how property crime can be reduced throughout the retail supply chain using RFID-based systems. Government grants totaling 9 million euros (US$8.95 million) supported about a dozen field trials involving RFID. Early RFID proponents in the U.K., however, continued to push ahead with deployment plans, including retailers Tesco, which will begin placing RFID tags on some shipments and items starting in April this year (see Tesco RFID Rollout Starts in April), and Marks & Spencer (see Marks & Spencer Expands RFID Trial).

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