World Kitchen’s Mandate

By Mark Roberti

Randy Peterson first heard of radio frequency identification in the early 1980s, when he read a couple of articles in Science News, one about tagging cattle and the other about tracking high-value items. At the time, he worked in Corning's finance department, handling cost control. The company would take inventory annually, which required it to shut down production for three days and send teams into the warehouses to manually count the physical inventory. "My thought was, 'Wow, wouldn't it be great if we could tag all our pallets and sit in the office and push a button and take physical inventory in a few minutes remotely?'" he recalls.

While that still isn't technically or financially feasible, Peterson is preparing for the day when it will be. He's now VP of technology for World Kitchen, a manufacturer of consumer housewares, including CorningWare and Pyrex. And he's part of the team that met not only Target's and Wal-Mart's tagging mandates but also his own company's RFID mandate: to meet its customers' tagging requirements in a way that was cost-effective, could scale as customers expanded their requirements and could eventually deliver a return on investment. Our cover story, "How World Kitchen Got It Right," explains how that was done and why it paves the way for internal benefits.

For companies that have to begin tagging pallets and cases for customers, we reveal the best practices associated with meeting RFID mandates, based on the lessons learned by World Kitchen and others (see "The Secrets of Their Success"). And we provide advice on choosing the right RFID label printer-encoders and applicators for your company's needs (see "The Smart Way to Print Smart Labels"). Even if your largest customer is not requiring you to tag thousands of cases, there's a lot to know about choosing these critical pieces of equipment.

Elsewhere in the issue, we look at the use of RFID in the financial sector-not for electronic payments, but to reduce risk and boost customer confidence and loyalty. RFID is being used to track storage devices with valuable customer data, money and other assets. Banks believe RFID could improve customer services. And some insurance companies think RFID could be used to set rates, pay out claims and manage risk (see "Cashing In on RFID's Benefits").

The benefits for insurers are probably several years away, when RFID becomes ubiquitous. World Kitchen's Peterson thinks it will be two years before the technology has evolved to the point where his company can use it to achieve internal efficiencies.

"Our approach is that even though there isn't an ROI today, we have requirements from our customers, and we believe that the technology is going to evolve into something that's very important to our company," he says. "So our goal has been to gain valuable, practical experience in a way that isn't too costly now and sets us up to reap benefits down the road."

Spoken like the hard-nosed former financial cost controller that he is.

Mark Roberti

Founder and Editor