The visits, we had done to our customers in the first years of our business, was not easy to handle. Only a few of the companies had accurate information about RFID Technology. Only some of them used to believe they could do frenetic things with RFID technology. People were dreaming of doing fantastic things with RFID like; to determine location in indoor and outdoor areas with 3-5 cents chips (I seeked for those chips and couldn’t found them for years), to ring alarms with those chips, to track interior parts of trailers from space. The reason of these great expectations are the so-called experts, who visits some websites about RFID and call themselves ‘’experts’’, but this is not today’s topic. The customers who challenged us the most were the profile which had only a fair project experience and failed. Non-competent project partner, wrong determined targets, wrong measurement and evaluation criteria, unsettled RFID technical and practical standards and other reasons like those, innovative firms, who could not transcend the technology of the day, had frustration while consuming time and money. The most difficult part is to persuade the companies in favor of the usage of RFID again.
To tell the truth, RFID projects are difficult projects to handle. Thanks that we do not have any project, which was left over or resulted with a failure. This also does not mean that, all the RFID project requests from customers can be taken over. In some cases, it is better to implement barcode or GPS solutions rather than RFID. Moreover RFID is now wide spread but we still see unsuccessful RFID projects. For that reason, I would like to share some points with you to have successful RFID projects.
1-) Manage your expectations properly
You would like to use RFID technology at work. But how? First of all, you should analyze accurately your expectations from this technology and also the skills of RFID technology.
- Does the expectations of your company match with the RFID technology?
- Will you be able to really realize and implement things that you need with RFID Technology?
- Is RFID really the required technology by the company?
- Does your managers have crackpot expectations and demands about RFID solutions?
You should answer to these questions clearly and objectively.
Answering these questions correctly will work so well that you can avoid a lot of things that can cause failure in the future.
RFID will not fit you, instead, your solution must comply with RFID
2-) Re-evaluating the Processes
There is a quote, used by me frequently and one day I will ask for copy right; “RFID will not fit you, instead, your solution must comply with RFID’’ I strongly recommend you not to struggle, instead cooperate with this technology if you would like to have productivity. Because whatever you do, RFID will do what it does. So how can you get along with RFID technology? You ought to update your business processes, the way of doing business and your business canvas. Evaluating this process with a competent RFID consultant answering the concept, scope of the RFID project, project cost, how and duration of the project, will enable you to save time and money.
In Turkey, documentation and records management is not very reputable by suppliers, customers or the companies. Documentation is an important tool and task to do, very important and necessary!
We speak about the dreams and expectations of the company for hours and hours in the first meeting with our customers. As we approach to the end of the project, the expected/planned and realized work differ. This difference between the planned and realized are not welcomed well by the customers and suppliers. The supplier can stand many unnecessary points out of the project scope, may stand resource problems in order to increase customer satisfaction and commitment. On the other hand, the expectation of the customer may not match with the realized projects and confirmation-payment process can be suffocated.
For that reason, you have to be careful about the processes of procurement and project implementation. The tag properties/features, medium properties, the environment, reading performance expectations, software ERP/WMS integration are the topics, which should be detailed and agreed upon the articles of the written contract/agreement between the customer and RFID technology provider/supplier, which is you.
This essential approach in software projects is getting more and more importance in RFID projects, because besides the software costs; hardware and costful consumables are also in the business.
For this reason, always remember to detail, commit, agree and sign under tag features/properties, environment features/properties , expectations of reading performance, software ERP/WMS integration.
This essential approach, which is important in software projects, is more important in RFID projects, because in addition to the software expenditures hardware and costly consumables are also taken into account.
After the first visit to our customers, we use a form called Project Question form to the customers, who demand for new projects. Due to the tens of questions in the file, our customers can think deeply and thoroughly and they will be able to share many details with us at the beginning of the project. Verba volant, scripta manent; wiritings remain, but words fly away. Spoken words fly away, written words remain”.
4) Site Survery
Unlike barcode projects, a successful RFID project that you see in one business may not be successful in another business in the same industry. There can be many reasons for that. For an example an RFID reader which we didn’t have any problem in many fields, caused problems in a hospital with high electromagnetic pollution. UWB systems, deck phones, wireless devices and many unimaginable things can interfere with each other and this is not a subject that we can take a risk. It is known that it is difficult to read the RFID labels in metallic environments but the metal effect in the environment sometimes unexpectedly expands-distorts the reading areas of RFID tags and this can change the flow. In fact I would say that during the site survey, simple tests of the labels should be done, because not only the materials which the labels will be attached but also the label you positioned incorrect may surprise you.
RFID Projects are relatively expensive projects. You may have a good purchase and may have chosen the most optimum offer but none of these means that you will have an RFID project that works like a clock. You can ask candidate companies you want to work with to set up a demo. This is wise but inadequate. You many not determine the suitability of the designed RFID system for your company and your business processes with one hour or daily demo work. Companies generally do not prefer to pay for this type of experience, they mostly settle for demo. The supplier can not give the desired support to the customer who wants more because of its resources. In such cases, the best thing to do is to develop a pilot. A small-scale RFID project, which is defined as key points and covers processes where the performance of RFID systems is critical, can sometimes prevent you from losing big amount of money. It is better to start with a 10 unit pilot instead of jumping into a project which would cost 100 units. This will prevent problems that may occur in the future. Pilots are also a good starting point for a change in the working culture for the instution. Pilots where you can add even more value with the feedback that will come from your employees in the field can be upgraded to the next stage without any problems if you are satisfied with their small scale. Thanks to the pilot you realized that RFID project does not fit you in this stage? Do not worry! Instead of paying higher prices, you get this experience with a small pilot.
6-) Think Hybrit!
Of course you can provide significant added value within your company by commissioning RFID projects! However, the RFID models which are too good to be true are generally models with point to point integration models. If your supplier and customers are taking the advantage of RFID technologies, you can establish a global chain and benefit deeply from the blessings of RFID. But what if such an investment is not planned on the customer or supplier side? Don’t worry, no one says ‘’You’ve upgraded to RFID, so throw the barcode away!’’. Keep the barcode technology in the game to keep the chain going! In this way, you do not have any operational problems with your other shareholders who do not use RFID and your shareholders will not be adversely affected by the systematic updates you make as they proceed with the old fashioned barcode until they upgrade to RFID.
Hybrid identification technology also makes it easier to manage departments within your company. You may not have been able to convey all of your process to RFID both due to the internalization process of RFID as a company and financial concerns. In such cases, it will be possible to provide transitions with barcode. Also RFID printers can play an important role in your hybrid scenarios while they can print barcodes and RFID tags at the same time.
Let me share a secret about RFID projects: The success of an RFID project is primarily determined by the RFID tags used. Even tag technology sometimes determines whether a project will be executed or not. It is a critical decision whether tags are for multiple use or one shot in your project scenario. Apart from this active-passive tag decision will affect your budget in a dramatic way. The level of labeling (palet, parcel, box, product levels) can determine whether your project will be truly feasible or not. For all these reasons, you should constantly experience tag types, models and features on your site from the first stage of your projects and observe this criterion in your most optimal RFID scenario.