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WOW, Great RFID thinking article

Jim Williams has this in ComputerWorld this week:

I had a meeting scheduled with the chief operating officer and CIO of a $50 million manufacturing company, but when I arrived, the operations manager informed me that neither executive could join us -- both were busy "putting out fires." Considering the size of the company and its very small IT and operations staff, I could understand this, but it got me thinking.

It's natural to address immediate issues, particularly when customer service is at stake. But a C-level title carries with it certain responsibilities. The C-level executive brings value to the company by using strategic and visionary thinking. Yet too often we find CXOs too preoccupied with tactical problems to strategically ask questions like, "What if?"

When discussing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, clients often talk first about mandates from Wal-Mart, Target or the military. Such compliance issues are important, but focusing exclusively on them is working backwards. Wal-Mart's senior executives, such as the company's much-respected CIO, Linda Dillman, didn't arrive at their RFID model by looking at the demands of their customers. Instead, they asked themselves, "What if?" and saw an enormous opportunity to reduce costs and increase competitive advantage.

RFID can do much more than just inform the database that three cases of screws have arrived and 12 cabinets have left or act as a glorified bar-code system with expensive single-use tags. This model has its place, but it makes up only a fraction of the potential uses for RFID. Quite often, it's these other uses that will provide the greatest benefit.

When exploring potential RFID applications, we must look beyond passive tags. For instance, active tags can be highly cost-effective when they are configured to be reused hundreds of times. They can provide the current status, availability or condition of an object throughout a plant or campus. One auto manufacturer uses active RFID to track new-auto quality control prior to shipment. A logistics company uses it to trace and secure valuable assets over the road. A food processor uses it to trigger raw inventory alerts to automate procurement.

It is time for C-level executives to ask, "If we could know anything about our products or operations, at any time, or in any way, what would it be?" This type of critical strategic thinking has propelled every great company into its position of prominence.

It is likely that no one has yet thought up the "killer app" for RFID in your industry, but when someone does, will it be your company?

Comments:

This article says it all for me. Its never been about barcodes folks, but about how to use the data you can collect to drive value within your organization. Its not about RFID now, but how to use that technology to improve the supply chain, the manufacturing process, quality control and other parameters that make us more productive and can force costs down.

How do you define your business processes? How can you use the information that RFID technology can give you to make better decisions? What's the killer system that you couldn't do without RFID that the technology now makes possible?