Waste Not

By Mark Roberti

RFID can help your business eliminate the waste problem rampant throughout many industries.

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Simply put, waste is a waste. Companies hate it. Governments struggle to reduce it. Even individuals try to minimize it. Yet, the amount of waste in the world is staggering. Consider these facts:

• 50 percent of all food produced globally is never consumed
• Administrative errors cost U.S. retailers $4.9 billion annually
• Hospitals lose an average of $5,000 per bed per year
• Nearly 30 million pieces of luggage are mishandled each year, costing airlines an estimated $2.9 billion
• Roughly 8 percent to 10 percent of reusable transport items are replaced each year.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Waste is rampant. The reason, according to Carlo Nizam, Airbus' head of value chain visibility and auto-ID, is that companies have "little data or limited visibility of how their processes are performing, so they don't necessarily know where the waste is." And if you don't know where the waste is, it is hard to get rid of it.

In this issue's cover story, Eliminating Waste, we look at how companies in different industries are using radio frequency identification to pinpoint and reduce waste of all kinds. Airbus, for instance, introduced an RFID-based tool-management application, so workers don't have to wait to check tools in or out of a tool crib. Memove, a retailer in Brazil, deployed an RFID solution to improve shipment verification, which means employees no longer have to count and recount inventory to ensure the proper items are sent from its distribution centers to stores.

The oil and gas industry has begun to tackle waste, thanks to recent technology advances that make it possible to read RFID tags on metal and in harsh environments. In this issue's Vertical Focus, we explore how companies are using RFID to track equipment and improve asset-utilization rates. This is particularly important in remote regions, where logistics is a challenge and missing parts can result in downtime that can cost millions of dollars.

There is also plenty of waste in commercial laundry operations, which is why companies have been RFID-tagging and tracking uniforms and linens for more than 15 years. Here, too, the industry is benefiting from technology advances, which have led to lower prices and improved performance. As a result, casinos, fitness clubs, hospitals, hotels, theme parks and other organizations have begun using RFID to track laundry items, to improve asset visibility and reduce the number of stolen towels (see Product Developments).

In fact, RFID products and services in general have evolved rapidly to address waste of all kinds, and many of these solutions will be on display at RFID Journal LIVE! 2013, our annual conference and exhibition, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., from Apr. 30 to May 2. In addition, attendees will hear firsthand how Bloomingdale's, Celebration Health, Speedy Services and other organizations are doing away with waste. I encourage you to join us there and find out how RFID can help your business eliminate waste.

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, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.