What’s More Important Than RFID?

Aug 04, 2004

By George Anderson

When Wal-Mart throws its energy and dollars into developing its radio frequency identification (RFID) technology program, the whole consumer goods manufacturing and retail industry industry took notice and many got started on RFID programs of their own.

Today, RFID gets most of the technology-based headlines in the CG and retail business. There are industry publications and Web sites dedicated to RFID alone.

But, is the RFID hoopla obscuring other more important technology needs and solutions?

Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, told RetailWire in a recent interview
that PMA is actively engaged with its members in researching RFID. PMA will be co-sponsoring the upcoming conference, RFIDfresh: Meeting Retailer Requirements and Challenges in
the Perishables Packaging Supply Chain, with The School of Packaging at Michigan State University, September 21-22 in Monterey, California.

But, Mr. Silbermann and the PMA membership see other technological opportunities for improving supply chain performance that don’t usually get the attention devoted to RFID.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work on just some basic nuts and bolts things that have to do with database definitions. Everybody’s kind of rushed out and tried to get produce more online in terms of ordering but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of standard definitions,” he said.

A lack of standardization has meant that every time a company begins doing work with a new vendor or customer, it has to remap its definition of a product (in case lot quantities) to synch up with the trading partner.

“We’ve been working now for a couple of years to come up with a standard industry description of attributes so you are always mapping from the industry definition,” said Mr.
Silbermann. “That’s a kind of more behind-the-scenes, less sexy application than RFID but I would say in the long run actually more important because no matter what systems you’re
using or what media you’re using from day-to-day whether its bar codes or RFID or whatever, you need to have a standard definition.”

Moderator’s Comment: Is the emphasis on radio frequency identification (RFID) obscuring other technological opportunities for improving supply chain
and retail operational performance? Where do you see other opportunities for technology to improve performance?

George Anderson – Moderator

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