BrainTrust Query: What are we going to do with all that RFID data?
By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
People are having lots of discussions about RFID technologies and the challenges associated with capturing the serial numbers of containers encoded in their RFID tags. Most of the talk has been about getting the hardware to accurately capture every single unit.
Read rates for the RFID tags vary widely depending on the combination of product characteristics, tag manufacturer, reader manufacturer, and environment. Liquid and metal containers introduce transmission problems; tags of different shapes respond differently; readers with different propagation patterns achieve different response rates; and RF interference from equipment and nearby readers distort results.
But in addition to the operational challenges, people are asking a more fundamental question: “How do we use all this data?” Just capturing “events” – often defined as units moving across designated boundaries, such as from the backroom to the selling floor – will result in huge amounts of data. What is the purpose of capturing all this and how will it help run our businesses?
The obvious answers are track and trace. Pretty much everyone understands this to mean determining where something has gone or where it has been.
Loss prevention is another factor, as RFID can be used to detect “lost” containers or identify them as “stolen property” and make them valueless.
But beyond this, how are we going to integrate the new information that comes from “the container’s talking” into our existing stock ledger and locator applications?
Moderator’s Questions: Will RFID data engender what amounts to a second set of books?
Sorry for all the questions, but the more I think about this subject, the more arise:
- Does integrating data mean stock ledgers will no longer track inventory based on accounting standards such as FIFO or LIFO and now use specific unit
- Does it mean that physical inventories and stock locator systems will have to be modified to balance with the inventory generated from tags?
- How will this differ if read rates are less than 100 percent?
- If you have an inventory that, by definition, is not 100 percent accurate, how do you use the information it provides?
- Will there come a day when the RFID inventory will be considered more accurate than all the bookkeeping inventories and become the driving force behind
Answers, or even idle speculation, much appreciated. –
Bill Bittner – Moderator