March 2014 | By Tony Oliver, CTO/CMO at Universal Surveillance Systems
With RFID making news in the retail space with adoptions by top retailers in the U.S. market, many retailers are looking into what the technology can do for their departments and their organizations as a whole. With the open ended and the seemingly endless possibilities of a technology like RFID, it is sometimes hard to narrow down proper implementation.
Understanding the end goal to your organization’s technology adoption is often the easiest to imagine but the hardest to understand. When innovation teams within the retail organization get together and see all the end-game benefits to adopting RFID technologies, the dream quickly outpaces the piling obstacles to that big picture.
A common expectation when adopting RFID is enhanced visibility within the supply chain, improved efficiency in item tracking, and real time communication automation for better and more accurate information. The increase in information on locations, inventory levels, and sales floor item level demand will drive reduction in loss and an increase in profit by arming the retailer with information they can respond to in a real time environment. The increase in visibility will assist the retailer in decision-making and implementation of new business processes. The increase in visibility and decision-making also includes a dramatic increase in labor effectiveness as the RFID systems are expected to use automated data entry tasks. This automation can be seen at shipping/receiving, inventory cycle counts, and even at the P.O.S.
For the retailer in adopting any new technology, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Taking the time to define a clear path and scope of work for the integrator and understanding true impact on business process can be achieved through a proper implementation plane. Depending on the size of your retail organization, true discovery, testing, and implementation of an RFID program could take as little as six months to well over five years. These timelines are greatly affected based on the total scope of work and systems needing integration. While an integration may not be hard, this does not mean it isn’t time consuming. To assure quality in integration time is needed to test and retest to make sure that systems do not fail or error during testing, which could jade a retail organization for future adoption plans.
An overview of an RFID implementation plan includes the following:
- The integrator needs to truly understand the retailer’s business model (as well as culture) and the systems currently in place.
- A complete step-by-step walkthrough of the retailer’s “perfect” RFID implementation
- Identifying the largest key components of the “perfect” implementation
- Identifying the steps within the key components that will net the largest ROI
- Understanding the end user and the culture of adoption from associate to executive
- Identifying departmental stakeholders and resources affected
- Walkthrough of live environments where implementations would take place
- Understanding the limitations of RFID in the “perfect” implementation
- Defining of project objectives and agreeing to order of implementations
- Auditing of current systems for integration purposes
- Identifying Third Party Stakeholders (pre-existing inventory management, P.O.S., etc.)
- Identifying of potential obstacles and where areas of difficulty may arise
- Sourcing of Hardware solutions
- Sourcing of Software solutions
- Detailing new process implementation
- Detailing primary location and timelines
- Identifying local and corporate project participants
- Development of integration bridges
- Staging of test environment
- Walkthrough of proof of concept
- Testing of integrations
- Debugging of system
- Adaptation of any changes
- Training of stakeholders
- Depending on size of implementation shadow runs can be done
- A shadow run is an implementation done in the off hours so as to not impact normal store operations
- Installation in test location and constant follow up and hands on from integrator for predetermined test period
- Readjustments and fine tuning should be handled before moving on to larger integrations/installations
It’s important to note that you can get RFID right the first time by moving in a methodical process towards adoption across your enterprise. While it is important to have timelines and end dates, this schedule could be altered and change drastically throughout the testing phase as your company readjusts to new data or problems that could not have been foreseen. These adjustments should not be taken as setbacks because with adoption of any new technology there is a labor investment and a learning curve. It is not uncommon to adjust and readjust several times when designing, testing, and validating RFID within your company.
Retail has much to gain with adopting RFID, from replacing old EAS technology with systems much less prone to noise paired with greater detection ranges, inventory visibility from manufacturer to sales, metrics and analytics on replenishment, to consumer engagement pieces and so much more. If you are interested in talking to any of our RFID experts, please contact us today.