Time to Roll with RFID

Knowing about RFID is only the first step to competitive success


In the case of RFID, training and skill development of employees is just the tip of the iceberg. Successful "employee" RFID training isn't particularly complicated; the basics can be accomplished by using traditional operational training processes. While it's essential that workers understand the proper placement of RFID devices, how to use and monitor readers, and how their role connects with that of the next department, it's the next level that RFID-enabled companies should strive to achieve.

That step is critical knowledge transfer, i.e. how to use RFID technology to improve the supply chain process — make it faster, improve the quality, or better track and monitor orders or shipments. The ability to apply the extensive collection of data mined by using RFID to improve the selling and/or purchasing process is also a logical application.

An organization that supports a higher level of technology such as RFID likely has a system for process improvement already in place. The new challenge is to marry RFID with existing processes and allow that dramatic process change to facilitate innovation. And businesses that know how to turn creativity, knowledge and innovation into dollars are positioned for success.

Creativity and innovation isn't just for the marketing team. Associates at all levels must look at the process and think about how it can be used to do things better. They must be encouraged to generate and share ideas about how RFID technology can be used. Creative people plant seeds: they aren't afraid to suggest an idea, for fear it will be rejected or worse — considered "silly" by a supervisor or co-worker. They are willing to take giant leaps, or at least small steps, toward their creative vision. In a team environment, these innovators can look at an established process, or start with someone else's ideas, and come up with ideas to change it in a positive way.

Businesses that have implemented RFID must take concrete steps to encourage innovation in order to gain maximum success. They must find and develop talent in their employees, making them engaged and active participants. Management must inspire and mentor their direct reports and connect them with others who can help transform their ideas into action.

Additionally, companies must capitalize on relationships with employees as well as customers, to develop and enable creative ideas. For example, Best Buy went directly to its suppliers and customers and asked them how to implement and use RFID technology that would serve them better.

Without innovation, even the best company will succumb to its rivals. Successful implementation of RFID requires more than learning and using a new technology; it demands applying that technology to existing or future problems and generating new, exciting solutions.

By doing so, RFID will make the company both efficient and profitable. The possibilities are extensive: RFID adoption promises more accurate data, improved delivery reliability, reduced waste and defects, more supply chain visibility, lower labor expenses, improved marketing data and reduced shrinkage (Frost & Sullivan).

According to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, an organization's ability to learn — and then translate that learning in action — is the ultimate competitive advantage. RFID offers both the opportunity to learn and to win in the global marketplace.

Read the full-length version of the sidebar "The EQ Factor" by Scott Barrella, MS CPIM.

About the Author: Owen Davis is managing director of U.S. Operations of TrainingFolks, which specializes in performance consulting, leadership development and designing and executing employee-based development systems. He can be reached at odavis@trainingfolks.com.

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