Worried that you don't have the staff needed to implement a radio-frequency identification (RFID) pilot program? Here's some good news. Contrary to popular perception, it doesn't take a village—or even a small army—to get a company RFID-ready. If the talent is at hand, all it takes is a few good men or women.
Take the case of Wal-Mart's much vaunted RFID implementation, which was officially launched in January. For all the decisions to be made and questions to be answered (where do we put the tags? what technology do we use?), Wal-Mart used only five people, all from its information systems group, to get its pilot up and running. Even now as it rolls out its RFID program to 100 more suppliers and to additional locations, Wal-Mart has only increased the RFID team's headcount to nine.
Linda Dillman, chief information officer at Wal-Mart, urges others to start small. "Our team in the first year had five associates [who] made this happen at Wal-Mart," she says. "Today we have nine. If you have a small group that understands the business, you can make it happen. Recognize it's a journey. It's not a single step."
Of course, it can't be just any five people. They need to be knowledgeable about RFID. And people with RFID expertise are getting tougher to find. In fact, eight out of 10 respondents to a recent survey conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) said a lack of people qualified to implement, service and support the technology could hinder the successful widescale adoption of RFID. Another two-thirds cited training and educating employees in RFID technology as one of the biggest challenges they faced.
"We believe the market needs hundreds of systems integration companies with RFID capabilities; and hundreds of thousands of individuals knowledgeable in this technology to meet current and future demand," David Sommer, vice president of electronic commerce at CompTIA, said during a presentation at RFID World in March.
To address the skills shortage, CompTIA is working with major players in the RFID market. Product manufacturers, distributors, systems integrators, education and training providers, and end-user customers are collaborating to develop a vendor-neutral professional certification of RFID skills for individuals working with the technology.
Though it's hard to know how much a shortage of experts has hindered its adoption, it appears that RFID has been somewhat slow to take hold. The survey of CompTIA members (mostly computer service companies and computer manufacturers) found that customer adoption of RFID solutions remains relatively modest. More than two-thirds of the respondents—71 percent—reported that their customers had not yet implemented RFID solutions. And even among respondents whose customers had begun using RFID, it appeared that only a fraction—20 percent— of their customers had gotten involved. (Survey respondents said their customers came from government and a variety of industries, including manufacturing, retail, health care, services, communications, and financial services and real estate.)
Not that the respondents themselves were all that experienced with RFID. A full 80 percent of the responding companies said they either had yet to go past the investigation stage of RFID implementation or had done no investigation at all. Just 16 percent have implemented one or more RFID pilot projects for themselves or their customers. When asked if they saw their company offering RFID products and services in the next three years, 37 percent of the organizations said they definitely would, while 39 percent said they would consider it if there were interest from their customers.
The majority of respondents to the CompTIA survey were value-added resellers and solutions providers (33 percent); consultants and systems integrators (21 percent); and manufacturers (19 percent). Two-thirds of the companies have annual revenues of up to $25 million; while 22 percent are companies with annual revenues of $100 million or more.
what's holding them back?|
RFID's early adopters get all the headlines, making it easy to forget that plenty of companies have yet to get started. So why haven't they taken the plunge?
Source: DC VELOCITY, Warehousing Education & Research Council
Though undoubtedly footsore and weary after a day packed with seminars, speeches and demonstrations, those hardy souls still standing on the show floor at the end of RFID World's first day got their reward. They were treated to a special performance at an after-hours networking reception. Continuing a tradition begun at the first RFID World show in 2003, the "RFID Jam Band," a group of about a dozen industry professionals who share a fondness for rhythm and blues, took the stage to rock their (RFID) world.
Led by Bill Allen, singer/guitarist/keyboardist and harmonica player (as well as a conference speaker and professional whose day job is director of strategic alliances and programs at Texas Instruments), the group's alternating cast of rock wanna-bes performed a hard-hitting set for just over two hours on the show floor.
Although Gregg Temple, president of Meyers Label Group, stole the show with his rousing rendition of "Mustang Sally," Allen's raspy vocals and harmonica riffs electrified the crowd. Other band members included Rick Morgan of SCAN, the Data Capture Report (bass); Stephen Garth, Oracle (keyboards); Karl Ludwig, Hightech Knowledge Inc. (guitar, vocals); Doug Bourque, Texas Instruments (drums); Robert Stone, Texas Instruments (guitar); Dan Schell, Business Solutions magazine (bass, vocals), Chris Zimmardi, Texas Instruments (bass), and DC VELOCITY's own Emma Shin (vocals).