Radio frequency identification (RFID) has always been considered a forward-looking technology. Today, most of the focus is on how emerging Electronic Product Code (EPC) RFID tags can help connect trading partners and align supply chains. However, to see the immediate benefits RFID can provide, manufacturers should look inward at their operation's own business processes, not forward into just supply chain customer's compliance requirements. RFID provides a quick return on investment in many factory and warehousing industrial operations, without as much coordination and complexity as supply chain implementations require. Manufacturers who consistently experience bottlenecks, desire traceability, or who want to reduce the labor required for costs associated with materials management and replenishment, are excellent candidates to save money with RFID.
A major reason manufacturers can gain a rapid return on RFID investment is because industrial applications use currently available, highly proven technology. Many of the concerns and perceived implementation challenges for supply chain RFID applications center on the uncertainty of tag standards. Numerous industrial applications, including work-in-process tracking, parts identification, replenishment, asset and fleet management, are closed loop and do not require RFID technology to be coordinated with customers, suppliers, logistics providers or other outside organizations. This gives users a much wider range of opportunity for RFID adoption. This also provides users with the choice of many proven products that are backed by mature international standards.
Manufacturers, mechanics and service technicians know that no single tool is right for every job. RFID needs to be viewed in the same way. The RFID tag is only one component of a total system that may combine bar codes, mobile computers, wireless LANs, material handling systems and industrial controls to manage materials and assets more effectively. Companies need to look beyond the tag to see the value of RFID.