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  • pg 1
									                                    TeN STePS TO
[ Track & Trace ]

                                    rFID SUcceSS
                                    RFID is not about technology, it’s about
                                    management, says ALFIO GRASSO, who
                                    recommends following these ten steps for a
                                    successful implementation.

                                    A    n integrated circuit connected
                                    to an antenna receives RF (radio
                                                                               line, for example by either reducing
                                                                               inventory, increasing stock visibility,
                                                                                                                                     Management, Security, Finance and
                                                                                                                                     IT. Educate the team on real RFID
                                    frequency) energy and transmits (or        reducing operating costs, increasing                  performance and expectations, and
                                    reflects) a response. That is radio        asset utilization, reducing shrinkage,                leverage any data collected internally
                                    frequency identification (RFID) – really   or reducing shipping errors?                          amongst departments. Identify all the
                                    just another way to capture data, and                                                            problems and opportunities, even if
                                    its technology and application are not     What existing infrastructure in your                  opportunities for RFID may mean a
                                    difficult.                                 facilities can be exploited in the                    change to business processes. And
                                                                               RFID project? What are your vendors                   talk to people on the factory floor,
                                    While there may be regulatory issues,      doing in RFID projects? What are your                 to check that the business processes
                                    fortunately, two frequency bands           clients doing, or plan to do? Are your                your team identified are actually
                                    are almost universally acceptable:         vendors and clients using similar                     followed.
                                    13.56 MHz (HF) and 860-960 MHz             technology, for example UHF or HF?
                                    (UHF), which are the two bands             Do you undertake the project by                       Define the scope of the RFID
                                    that EPCglobal has selected for            implementing a pilot project, or can                  implementation, potentially
                                    specifications, known as Class 1           you undertake an extensive test plan?                 narrowing the scope by region, or
                                    Generation 2 standards, at UHF                                                                   department, or area, Consider higher
                                    (published) and HF (final stages of the    As this stage proceeds, there is a                    value projects first, for example
                                    development process).                      tendency to increase the scope of                     pallet-level RFID rather than case
                                                                               your RFID project, but for a first                    level, or item level. Analyze the
                                    When is the best time to start?            project, try and resist the temptation                operation and itemize and quantify
                                    Today. Because beginning your RFID         and minimize scope creep.                             all business processes. Assess the
                                    deployment earlier gives you time to       Form a cross-functional team,                         financial impact of the project,
                                    correct mistakes, retrain workers, and     consisting of senior managers from                    not only capital expenditure on
                                    phase-in change. RFID is not about         all departments, e.g. Manufacturing,                  infrastructure, but also ongoing
                                    technology, it’s about management!         Operations, Packaging, Warehouse                      operating costs.
                                    But before you start, it is worthwhile
                                    to remember that planning is a very
                                    important part of the process, and
                                    RFID is no different.

                                    In general, I have found that
                                    successful RFID implementation
                                    projects are successful because
            JULY - AUGUST 2008

                                    the project management team has
                                    followed ten basic steps, which are
                                    described in the rest of this article
                                    (and are relevant to RFID products
                                    that comply with EPCglobal’s

    14                              1. Define What you are Doing
                                    It sounds simple, but you cannot plan

                                    a successful RFID implementation if
                                    you do not define the scope of your
                                    project. What exactly is the purpose
                                    of the RFID project? Is it simply for
                                    compliance with an external mandate,
                                                                               [ Industry exhibitions are one way of finding RFID suppliers and seeing what they have to offer. ]
                                    or is it to increase your bottom
Consider installation costs, wiring         customization services, for example                 information, but the RFID reader just
or power and communications for             in packaging, form factor, and who                  reads the EPC codes, hence your data
reader, upgrades to IT systems.             owns the IP of that customization: are              needs to be accurate. How can you be
Determine benefits of the RFID              you locked into them? How do they                   sure that all your data in your system
project, reduction in errors, reduction     handle maintenance and upgrades.                    is correct?
in staff time, etc. Perform a sensitivity
analysis with respect to the cost of        Ensure that any products you                        RFID signals are reflected by
RFID hardware (readers, antennas,           purchase have been certified                        conductive surfaces. Have you taken
tags), as these are always reducing in      by EPCglobal, i.e. they have an                     into account reflections from existing
cost, and many projects may become          EPCglobal compliance certification.                 metal infrastructure? Will the walls of
profitable as prices fall.                  Avoid companies that lock you into                  your building affect RFID performance
                                            purchasing complete solutions,                      through multi-path propagation? Will
2. Locate SoLution ProviDerS                even if those solutions are based                   the reinforcing bars in the concrete
There are numerous RFID solution            on EPCglobal products, always                       floors affect performance? Will the
providers around the globe, all             ensure that you can purchase tags                   metal stud work in the walls affect HF
with varying levels of expertise,           and readers from any vendor with                    performance?
product offerings and local presence.       certified products.
The one-stop shop does not really                                                               Moisture absorbs UHF energy, and
exist: it is unlikely that one vendor       It is ideal for suppliers to have both              so how will the presence of moisture
will be able to supply all of your          global and local presence; global so                affect your RFID performance? Is the
RFID needs, as a project may need           they have access to a wide range of                 environment a high humidity one? Do
different vendors for tags, readers,        resources and experience, but local                 the products that you want to identify
antennas, IT solutions within the           so they can respond to your local                   contain liquids? Do your wooden
EPCglobal Network Stack (www.               needs quickly and efficiently.                      pallets get wet? What happens to your
epcglobalinc.org/standards), while                                                              IT systems and the RF environment as
other suppliers may be used locally to      4. anaLyze it & rf imPactS                          you expand your RFID applications in
provide installation, commissioning,        Any new project is going to impact                  the area?
maintenance and upgrades.                   your IT system, and RFID has the
                                            potential to be a very disruptive                   Can you duplicate your RFID project
Some vendors have specialized in            technology, not only on your                        in other areas? What works in one
vertical markets, such as FMCG,             IT system, but also to the RF                       location may not work in another,
Healthcare, Consumer Electronics,           environment.                                        even within the same organization.
etc. Many RFID reader vendors also                                                              Different facilities are built at different
embed EPCglobal Network Stack               Is your IT system up to the challenge?              times, to different building codes,
elements in their devices, and ERP          When a human scans a barcode                        with different building styles and
providers have modules for various          this manual operation takes a few                   different materials. Hence a site
EPCglobal Network Stack elements,           seconds. However, when an RFID                      survey should be undertaken at each
with preferred vendors. Some tag            reader reads EPC tags, it can read                  new proposed RFID location.
vendors offer test services, or applied     hundreds per second. Can your IT                    You need to factor in these tests in
tag performance tests, while others         system handle the data overload? Can                your project plan. Even if you are
offer tag customization services.           your LAN cope with the increased                    not planning an RFID project, but
                                            traffic?                                            you are undertaking an upgrade of
3. uSe aPProPriate                                                                              your infrastructure, plan on using
aSSeSSment criteria                         A human can also “see” the                          RF-friendly assets, for example,
Can vendors supply your needs,              object being scanned and has the                    ensure that your conveyor system
volumes and schedules? Do they              opportunity to correct erroneous                    is modularized and can be altered
offer truly certified and compliant
products? With what platforms
has their equipment been tested?
Do those vendors operate in your
vertical industry? What range of IT
solutions do they support? Have
they integrated into a legacy system
that you currently use? How do they
handle privacy? Can they expand to
your requirements: is the solution
scalable? What services do they have?

Do they offer site inspection services?
Do they offer design, installation,
commissioning and maintenance
services? Who have they partnered
with in both hardware and software
on past projects? What experience

have they had in your industry?

What test methods do they use to
test their products, ISO, EPCglobal
                                            [ A site survey should be undertaken at each new proposed RFID location. ]
or proprietary? Do they offer
                                                                                                                 one reader with      IP relating to that tag customization?
                                                                                                                 another is highly    How much time is needed in your
                                                                                                                 likely, unless       facility to prepare for the engineering
                                                                                                                 specific plans are   work required to install the RFID
                                                                                                                 put in place. The    systems? How can you effectively
[ Track & Trace ]

                                                                                                                 FCC regulations      deploy the new RFID equipment?
                                                                                                                 that employ          Does installation need to occur
                                                                                                                 frequency hopping    after hours, or do you need to shut
                                                                                                                 spread spectrum      down the facility for the installation
                                                                                                                 (FHSS) techniques    process?
                                                                                                                 is one such way
                                                                                                                 to mitigate such     In what quantity and delivery
                                                                                                                 interference,        schedule do you need tags? How are
                                                                                                                 another is the       you going to initialize those tags, e.g.
                                                                                                                 use of reader        write the EPC and data? How do you
                                                                                                                 synchronizers,       update the database with this EPC
                                                                                                                 such as proposed     information? How do you physically
                                                                                                                 in the European      install the tags, and once installed
                                    [ Location, location, location: optimum positioning of the tag on the item   jurisdiction.        verify that they are operational?
                                    is a crucial determinant of RFID system performance. ]                                            When do you tag? The earlier you tag
                                                                                                             As they say in the       a product in the manufacturing cycle,
                                    for RFID use. Work with product                     real estate business: location, location,     the larger the potential benefits you
                                    designers and packaging experts to                  location! While the location of a reader      may achieve. Just like WalMart, your
                                    design products to be RFID-friendly.                is important, the location of a tag on        suppliers may be able to supply you
                                    (The Gillette Fusion razor blade,                   an item is crucial. The optimal location      with tagged materials.
                                    released in 2006, was the first new                 for an RFID tag may not be the as
                                    product packaging to be designed                    that for a bar code or human readable         You need to factor in training of
                                    to be EPC-friendly.)                                information. Rather, it depends upon          personnel, including all people using
                                                                                        the object that needs to be identified,       the technology, managers and IT
                                    5. conSiDer reaDer/tag                              and the material with which the item is       support. Next, the RFID system needs
                                    iSSueS                                              composed.                                     to be integrated into the IT system:
                                    If a tagged product is always                                                                     can the database accept this data?
                                    presented to the reader in the same                 Simple things like moisture on wooden         Is the implementation scalable as
                                    orientation, then a linearly polarized              pallets can severely affect read range.       RFID use is expanded throughout
                                    reader antenna can be used, but                     If the tagged item contains lots of           the organization? What happens in
                                    if the orientation can vary, then a                 metal then look for gaps. Metal can           exceptions, i.e. in the interim period
                                    circularly polarized reader antenna                 sometimes increase performance.               when products without EPC tags are
                                    should be the choice. The type of                   If a tag is placed ¼ of a wavelength          processed?
                                    reader deployed will also vary, such                above a metal plane, then the tag
                                    as fixed readers on portals around                  receives the forward RF wave (from the        Plan to evaluate performance of
                                    dock doors and on conveyors,                        reader to the tag). But the reverse RF        the IT system throughout the
                                    to mobile readers on fork lifts                     wave (reflected with a phase change           commissioning stage and early use
                                    and trucks, to handheld readers                     from the metal surface) will travel ½         of the RFID system. Plan to make fine
                                    for personnel. To support easy                      wavelength more than the forward              adjustments, orientation and location
                                    maintenance, all readers should be                  wave, and with its phase change at the        of readers, etc. Plan on future
                                    capable of remote start, on board                   reflection point, will arrive in-phase        maintenance and upgrade events.
                                    diagnostics and online upgrades.                    with the forward RF wave, and hence           What are your suppliers doing? What
                                                                                        provide reinforcement, leading to             are your clients doing? What are your
                                    As the number of readers increase                   increased performance.                        competitors doing?
                                    in a facility, then interference from
                                                                                        Although most tag suppliers will              After successful system roll-
                                                                                        provide 100 percent tested product,           out, leverage the implemented
                                                                                        once applied to the object, you need to       infrastructure, to expand the RFID
                                                                                        check the tag’s functional performance.       applications and duplicate across
            JULY - AUGUST 2008

                                                                                        Slap and ship may not be the most             other sites and divisions.
                                                                                        prudent entry into RFID. You need time
                                                                                        to understand these problems and              7. ProceSS fLoW changeS
                                                                                        address all the issues.                       For all the benefits of RFID to be
                                                                                                                                      realized, a change to some of the
                                                                                        6. PracticaL PLanning                         business processes is inevitable.
                                                                                        Convenient access points for RFID             For example, it may be necessary to
    16                                                                                  readers usually do not have power or          change how a package is handled,
                                                                                        communication cables. Many of the             stored and stacked on a pallet, or

                                                                                        products will not have EPC tags on            to be RFID-friendly. Certainly, every
                                                                                        them. The implementation plan needs           time an RFID tag is attached to an
                                                                                        to consider equipment lead times.             item, its operation should be checked
                                                                                        Does your vendor have the products            immediately after application,
                                    [ Liquid and metal environments may require         you need in stock? Do you need a tag          to ensure that the tag was not
                                    special tag solutions. ]                            customization service? Who owns the           damaged, and that the item does not
compromise RFID read reliability.      stored, retrieved, and turned into
Consider processes to assist in 100    information that the company can
percent readability, such as reading   use to improve their business by the
items when they are singulated,        integration into existing IT systems.
prior to being stacked on a pallet,
and associating those items with a     Traditionally, IT systems have
pallet tag, so that aggregation and    provided information to management
association techniques can be used     so that they can make decisions.
to increase identification rates.      However, with nearly real-time
                                       information coming in from RFID
Any RFID program also needs to         readers, managers won’t have time
consider the business process          to react to all the information, and IT
changes that are needed while          systems will change from providing
transitioning from the current         information to incorporating business
system, to the RFID system. The        manager’s intelligence, so that the
IT system needs to operate during      system can react automatically,

this transitional period with RFID     leaving managers to manage by
exceptions, for example, what          exceptions and alarms.
happens if the object does not have
an RFID tag?                           9. the human touch
                                       Human issues, such as privacy and         [ Rather than an automation process that may
8. ShoW me the Data                    employment, need to be considered.        eliminate workers, RFID should be portrayed as
                                                                                 an efficiency driver. ]
For the supply chain to benefit from   Customers may need to be
wide scale adoption of RFID, data      educated and assured that personal
collected by back end systems needs    information is not being collected.       backing of management, right up to
to be accurate. Legacy data, such      Employees need to be consulted and        the CEO, pushing the RFID project.
as Vendor Master Files need to be      educated as early as possible; for        The champion will have realistic
verified for accuracy. An automated    example, rather than an automation        expectations; staring small but
exchange of data between your          process that may eliminate workers,       thinking big.
organization and your trading          RFID needs to be portrayed as
partners should be considered,         an efficiency driver. Being able to       The Champion will also need to
possibly using GS1’s Global Data       produce/distribute goods more             rethink the way operations are
Synchronization Network.               efficiently by the adoption of RFID       performed at the company and
                                       may lead to lower prices, which           encourage experimentation to find
Unlike a barcode system, which         means more affordability, possibly        new ways to benefit from RFID. And
usually requires a human to press      leading to higher demand and an           as with any IT program, the RFID
a trigger on a scanner to read a       increase in employment in more            deployment plan needs to have
barcode, once an RFID system           value-added jobs.                         milestones and measurables, and
has been installed, there is no                                                  have regular reassessments.
real additional cost to read a tag.    10. Be Sure to have a
And with RFID readers capable          chamPion
of processing hundreds of tags         This is actually the top item on the         Alfio Grasso is Deputy Director,
per second, this leads to massive      list. It is essential to have a company      Auto-ID Lab, Adelaide.
amounts of data that has to be         champion, who has the complete

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